Arthur Bramble, widowed patriarch of the Bramble clan, is moving east to live with his daughter Margaret during the final stages of cancer. As he moves into the final stages of his life, his three children face crisis in their own. Margaret, stay-at-home mother of three, seems adrift in her own life, drawn by its currents rather than any purpose of her own design. Max has quite his job as an independent film producer but still leaves each new wife and baby each morning as if going to the office. Edie, newly single, barely manages to cope with her eating disorder and the drive west to pick up her father. As each Bramble faces Arthur’s death, secrets will be uncovered and lives remade during one unforgettable summer.
The Brambles, Eliza Minot’s second novel, is the story about the moment of change in a life. Each of the Bramble children’s lives is in some way on hold. Whether it is due to the death of their mother or external forces, each has become mired and unable to move forward. Margaret has given up her New York City job and has devoted her life to raising her children, losing her individual identity and become a reflection of her children and their needs. As her husband Brian says to her: “Face it…you’ve been thrown into neutral.” Max has quit his job and has hidden the fact from his wife for three weeks, frozen by the new responsibilities of both father and husband. Edie has become obsessed with food, using it to hide from her growing depression and sense of purposelessness.
Arthur’s death is the plot device Minot uses to pull the disparate stories of Margaret, Max and Edie together, providing the intersection of their spheres. Rather than being the catalyst for self-discovery or create a moment of family unity, Arthur’s last journey merely sheds light on the isolation and disorder on each sibling’s life.
The Brambles contains little action and really is a collection of the mundane moments present in anyone’s life. Minot takes these inconsequential moments and through her magical prose creates a touching narrative on three troubled inner lives.
Read the review at Armchair Interviews.
Publisher: Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date: June 12, 2007
tags: books book reviews Eliza Minot