Her 1998 debut Animal Husbandry, which inspired Someone Like You, “was kicked out of the house and moved in with a woman,” says Zigman. “Check!” When she wrote “Dating Big Bird” (2000), she was actually worried that she would have to have a child and “Her” alone. (2002) was about her husband’s very real and very wonderful ex-wife. in 2020 the novel “Separation Anxiety,” says Zigman, “was about a woman who keeps her dog strapped to her in a carrier, just like a certain novelist whose name we shall not mention.”
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Therefore, it is not surprising that drama is at the center of “Small World”. happened in real life too.
Zigman’s oldest sister, born with a rare bone disease, died at age 7. In Zigman’s fictional version, Melishman’s middle daughter dies of cerebral palsy at the age of 10, causing estrangement between Joyce and Lydia, who survive. Decades later, after 30 years on opposite coasts, Lydia moves into Joyce’s apartment in Cambridge, Mass. Both women are newly divorced. One expects the other to heal her childhood wounds. Spoiler alert: Chance of fat.
“I started ‘Small World’ imagining how those sisters would push each other’s buttons,” says Zigman, “and how their own needs, suppressed as children, would affect their adult relationships – in marriages that no longer exist.” each other.”
Showcasing Zigman’s emotional range, “Small World” is spiced with the gravity of his true origins. The novel is both poignant and funny, thought-provoking, witty and hauntingly relatable.
Is there a sibling alive who hasn’t felt simultaneously twinned and eerily dissimilar to someone who shares not only their formation history and family tree, but their DNA? “That’s what sisters do,” Joyce tells a friend. “We rebel against each other, we make each other jealous, we punish each other for reasons we don’t even understand.”
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In a novel, as in life, the essence of a character is best captured in the act of solving a problem. To that end, Zigman puts protagonist Joyce and her sister in a figure-wrestling ring with a thoroughly modern predicament: the sparring sisters’ upstairs neighbors, Stan and Sonia, have turned their room into a yoga studio whose sound effects destroy Joyce’s inner peace. . Stomp, students stomp up the stairs; slap, slap their rugs on the uncarpeted floor. Aggressive, Joyce shouts Defcon mode. Passive (or is she passive-aggressive?) Lidija secretly befriends Stan and Sonia and becomes a permanent member of their studio.
Outraged by Lydia’s betrayal, Joyce summons her yogi neighbor and sister. “Sonia enters quietly, long hair in her usual loose bun, soft white flowing trousers, so it seems that she is floating on the sofa, rather than walking on her feet. Joyce threatens to report Stan and Sonia to the host and the town, providing the perfect setup for Zigman’s classic social satire.
“Why the hell would you do that?” Sonia asks.
“Because this. Illegal,” barks Joyce.
“Joyce, this is Cambridge,” Sonia says. “Also known as the People’s Republic of Cambridge. Home of anti-war protesters, civil rights activists and lovers of acid-inducing folk music. Free thinkers. Rule breakers. … Maybe if you came up with a class and tried it, you could pass it.
“You carry a lot of emotional weight. I feel that.”
“We should do that, Joyce,” Lydia interjects. “Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves and each other.” Maybe this will be the thing that finally changes our relationship.
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After a failed peace conversation, hissing behind a closed bedroom door, Joyce muses, “I’m tired of trying to get her to see me. It’s like childhood all over again: it doesn’t matter what I want or need.
Never one for emotional restraints, Joyce jumps out of bed and writes an eviction notice, which she slips under Lydia’s bedroom door—a move she regrets when a last-minute plot twist reveals character-altering family secrets past and present. It’s nice to meet a kinder, gentler Joyce, though her redemption price is high.
In Acknowledgments, Zigman reveals the real and fictional plot lines. She writes, “When I told my sister Linda that I was going to write a novel about two sisters who…finally came to terms with how the death of their other sister had shaped their family and them, she said: I trust you. What could be a better gift?
Not for this reader. If a hardened booty like Joyce could trade in her less glamorous features, I thought, maybe I could too.
Meredith Maran is a journalist, critic, and author of The New Old Me: Reinventing My Late Life, among other books.
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