Kate's Reviews > The Invisible Circus

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Mar 30, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, favorites
Read in April, 2009

Egan's freshman novel, about a girl who, along with her widowed mother, is frozen in time since the suicide of her hippie sister the decade before. Set in 1970s San Francisco and Europe, where the protagonist traces her sister's footsteps. Started off a bit rough but it's smooth now, and quite vivid. One scene on the beach with the sisters and the dying father made me put the book down for a few days -- the narrator's childhood memory was so real and painful. By the end, Phoebe has shed a great deal of her naivite and bravely come to face painful truths about her family and her idealization of them and of the flower-child generation she just missed growing up in.

One thing Egan does beautifully that I really appreciate is to not tie anything up neatly. Like a more internalized Iris Murdoch, Egan doesn't let a character abruptly graduate to peace, acceptance, comfort -- she'll describe, e.g., a Zen moment that Phoebe experiences, and then slap her right back down into misery, the way real life works. Change comes with time and patience and with repeated slips backward. I was left thinking about this book for many days.
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