In poised and elegant prose, Kathryn Harrison weaves in The Binding Chair; or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society a stunning story of women, travel, and flight; of love, revenge, and fear; of the search for home and the need to escape it. Set in alluring Shanghai at the turn of the century, The Binding Chair intertwines the destinies of a Chinese woman determined to forget her past and a Western girl focused on the promises of the future.Beautiful, charismatic, destructive, May escapes an ar-ranged marriage in rural nineteenth-century China for life in a Shanghai brothel, where she meets Arthur, an Australian whose philanthropic pursuits lead him into one scrape after another. As a member of the Foot Emancipation Society, Arthur calls on May not for his pleasure but for her rehabilitation, only to find himself immediately and helplessly seduced by the sight of her bound feet. Reforming May is out of the question, so love-struck Arthur marries her instead and brings her home to live with him, his sister and brother-in-law, and their two girls, Alice and Cecily. In Alice, May sees the possibility of redemption: a surrogate for a child she has lost. And it is to May that Alice turns for the love her own mother withholds. But when the twelve-year-old is caught preparing her aunt's opium pipe, she is shipped off to a London boarding school, far from the dangerous influence of the woman who will come to reclaim her and to control the whole family. The Binding Chair unfolds among scenes of astonishing beauty and cruelty, in a lawless place where traditions and cultures clash, and where tragedy threatens a world built on the banks of unsettled waters--from the bustling Whangpoo River to the lake of blood in the Chinese afterworld. By turns shocking, exquisite, and hilarious, The Binding Chair is another spellbinding literary triumph by the writer whose work Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times has called "powerful and hypnotic."From the Hardcover edition.
From Kathryn Harrison, one of America's most admired literary voices, comes a gorgeously written, enthralling novel set in the final days of Russia's Romanov Empire. St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin's body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family--including the headstrong Prince Alyosha. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin's miraculous healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to Aloysha, who suffers from hemophilia, a blood disease that keeps the boy confined to his sickbed, lest a simple scrape or bump prove fatal. Two months after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha grieve the loss of their former lives, finding solace in each other's company. To escape the confinement of the palace, they tell stories--some embellished and some entirely imagined--about Nikolay and Alexandra's courtship, Rasputin's many exploits, and the wild and wonderful country on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand. Mesmerizing, haunting, and told in Kathryn Harrison's signature crystalline prose, Enchantments is a love story about two people who come together as everything around them is falling apart.From the Hardcover edition.
Will has a good sex life-with the woman he married. So why then is he increasingly plagued by violent erotic fantasies that, were they to break out of his imagination and into the real world, have the power to destroy not only his family but his career? He's about to lose his grip when he attends a college reunion and there discovers evidence of a past sexual betrayal, one serious enough that it threatens to overpower the present, even as it offers a key to Will's dangerous obsessions. Hypnotic, beautifully written, this mesmerizing novel by "an extremely gifted writer" (San Francisco Chronicle) explores the corrosive effect of evil-and how painful psychological truths long buried within a family can corrupt the present and, through courage and understanding, lead to healing and renewal. "Like Scheherezade in the grip of a fever dream, Kathryn Harrison . . . has written one of those rare books, in language of unparalleled beauty, that affirm the holiness of life," said Shirley Ann Grau, aboutPoison. And the same can be said aboutEnvy.
"Luminous and affecting . . . [Exposure] examines the often fine line between art and abuse. . . . Taut in plot, beautifully realistic, and intelligently disturbing."-Harper's BazaarAnn Rogers appears to be a happily married, successful young woman. A talented photographer, she creates happy memories for others, videotaping weddings, splicing together scenes of smiling faces, editing out awkward moments. But she cannot edit her own memories so easily-images of a childhood spent as her father's model and muse, the subject of his celebrated series of controversial photographs. To cope, Ann slips into a secret life of shame and vice. But when the Museum of Modern Art announces a retrospective of her father's shocking portraits, Ann finds herself teetering on the edge of self-destruction, desperately trying to escape the psychological maelstrom that threatens to consume her."Astounding . . . told in prose as multifaceted as a diamond, crystalline and mesmerizing. 'Remarkable' hardly goes far enough."-Cosmopolitan"Impossible to put down . . . Kathryn Harrison is an extremely gifted writer, poetic, passionate, and elegant."-San Francisco Chronicle"Exquisite, exhilarating, and harrowing."-Donna Tartt, author of The Secret History and The Little Friend"A breathless urban nightmare not easy to forget. Stark, brilliant, and original work."-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)From the Trade Paperback edition.
The profoundly inspiring and fully documented saga of Joan of Arc, the young peasant girl whose "voices" moved her to rally the French nation and a reluctant king against British invaders in 1428, has fascinated artistic figures as diverse as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Voltaire, George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Carl Dreyer, and Robert Bresson. Was she a divinely inspired saint? A schizophrenic? A demonically possessed heretic, as her persecutors and captors tried to prove?Every era must retell and reimagine the Maid of Orleans's extraordinary story in its own way, and in Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, the superb novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison gives us a Joan for our time--a shining exemplar of unshakable faith, extraordinary courage, and self-confidence during a brutally rigged ecclesiastical inquisition and in the face of her death by burning. Deftly weaving historical fact, myth, folklore, artistic representations, and centuries of scholarly and critical interpretation into a compelling narrative, she restores Joan of Arc to her rightful position as one of the greatest heroines in all of human history.
Here comes a true story about A Woman Who Slept with Her Father--prime fodder for the TV talk show feeding frenzy. Certainly it would be easy to lump Kathryn Harrison's new memoir, The Kiss into this same category of titillating topics, but that would be a mistake. There is nothing remotely titillating about Harrison's book; instead, it reads like a slow descent into hell--one that compels and repels in almost equal measure at times. Harrison, who did not really meet her father until she was 20, takes the reader on a difficult journey into her loveless childhood, her bouts with anorexia and bulimia, and, eventually, the incestuous 4-year affair with her father. Her prose is deceptively simple; her choice of present tense to describe events that occurred many years ago forces an immediacy--almost a complicity--upon the reader that heightens both revulsion and compassion. The Kiss is not for everybody. Some readers will be outraged by its subject matter; others will find it just too painful to read. But for those who make it through, this harrowing tale promises the reward of a life reclaimed and a tragedy transcended.
In this extraordinary memoir, one of the best young writers in America today transforms into a work of art the darkest passage imaginable in a young woman's life: an obsessive love affair between father and daughter that began when Kathryn Harrison, twenty years old, was reunited with a parent whose absence had haunted her youth.Exquisitely and hypnotically written, like a bold and terrifying dream, The Kiss is breathtaking in its honesty and in the power and beauty of its creation. A story both of taboo and of family complicity in breaking taboo, The Kiss is also about love -- about the most primal of love triangles, the one that ensnares a child between mother and father.From the Hardcover edition.
In this dark gem of a book by the author of The Kiss, a complex mother-daughter relationship precipitates a journey through depression to greater understanding, acceptance, freedom, and love,. Spare and unflinching,The Mother Knot is Kathryn Harrison's courageous exploration of her painful feelings about her mother, and of her depression and recovery. Writer, wife, mother of three, Kathryn Harrison finds herself, at age forty-one, wrestling with a black, untamable force that seems to have the power to undermine her sanity and her safety, a darkness that is tied to her relationship with her own mother, dead for many years but no less a haunting presence. Shaken by a family emergency that reveals the fragility of her current happiness, Harrison falls prey to despair and anxiety she believed she'd overcome long before. A relapse of anorexia becomes the tangible reminder of a youth spent trying to achieve the perfection she had hoped would win her mother's love, and forces her to confront, understand, and ultimately cast out--in startling physical form--the demons within herself. Powerful, insightful, unforgettable, by "a writer of extraordinary gifts" (Tobias Wolff), Kathryn Harrison's The Mother Knot is a knockout.
Francisca de Luarac, the daughter of a poor Spanish silk grower, is a dreamer of fabulous dreams. Marie Louise de Bourbon, the niece of Louis XIV, dances in slippers of fine Spanish silk in the French Court of the Sun King and imagines her own enchanted future. Born on the same day--in an age when superstition, repression, and the Inquisition reign--the lives of these two young women unfold in tandem, barely touching. Each hoards the memory of her adored lost mother like an amulet. Francica's obsession with her lover, a Catholick priest, will shaper her fate. Marie Loouise is yoked by political expediency to the mad, imptoent Carlos II of Spain. But even as their twin destinies spiral inexorably toward disaster, both Queen and commoner cultivate a dangerous, secret life dedicated to resistance, transcendence, and love. Written in gorgeous prose that has the sheen of silk, Kathryn Harrison's POISON vividlyreminds us of the persistence of desire, the passion that exists between mothers and daughters, and the sorcery of dreams.
Displaying her "real talent for conjuring far-flung times and places," Kathryn Harrison tells the mesmerizing story of her 200-mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. In the spring of 1999, Kathryn Harrison set out to walk the centuries-old pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. "Not a vacation, " she calls it, "but a time out of time." With a heavy pack, no hotel reservations, and little Spanish, she wanted an experience that would be both physically and psychically demanding. No pain, no gain, she thought, and she had some important things to contemplate. But the pilgrim road was spattered with violets and punctuated by medieval churches and alpine views, and, despite the exhaustion, aching knees, and brutal sun, she was unexpectedly flooded with joy and gratitude for life's gifts. "Why do I like this road?" she writes. "Why do I love it? What can be the comfort of understanding my footprint as just one among the millions? ... While I'm walking I feel myself alive, feel my small life burning brightly." Throughout this deeply personal and revealing memoir of her journey, first made alone and later in the company of her daughter, Harrison blends striking images of the route and her fellow pilgrims with reflections on the redemptive power of pilgrimages, mortality, family, the nature of endurance, the past and future, the mystery of friendship. The Road to Santiago is an exquisitely written, courageous, and irresistible portrait of a personal pilgrimage in search of a broader understanding of life and self.
Overcome by the scenic beauty, Harrison threw open the hotel-room window shutters and exclaimed, "Look at the mountains!" From behind her, 12-year-old Sarah ecstatically waved the television's remote control and shouted, "French MTV!" So began a voyage distinguished by a mother getting to know herself through her daughter. For hundreds of years, thousands of worshipers have trekked, like this mother and daughter, on foot, the 400 miles from St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to the sacred shrine of the apostle James, the brother of Jesus. Everyone who endures the inhospitable weather, poor road conditions, and exhaustion does so not so much to enjoy the shrine as to survive the pilgrimage, a time-out-of-time penance. Harrison had taken the journey before, alone, and learned something about herself. Her account of her accompanied, reprise journey and what she learned, part of the National Geographic Directions travel series, endears with its wit and sensitivity.
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, largely unknown when she died in a Carmelite convent at the age of twenty-four, became-through her posthumously published autobiography-one of the world's most influential religious figures. In Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, bestselling novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison, whose depictions of women have been called "powerful" (The New York Times Book Review) and "luminously intelligent" (The Boston Sunday Globe), brings to the saint's life her storytelling gift and deep insight as she reveals the hopes and fears of the young girl behind the religious icon. <P> Saint Thérèse of Lisieux shows us the pampered daughter of successful and deeply religious tradespeople who-through a personal appeal to the pope-entered a convent at the early age of fifteen. There, Thérèse embraced sacrifice and self-renunciation in a single-minded pursuit of the "nothingness" she felt would bring her closer to God. With feeling, Harrison shows us the sensitive four-year-old whose mother's death haunted her forever and contributed to the ascetic spirituality that strengthened her to embrace even the deadly throes of tuberculosis. Tellingly placed in the context of late-nineteenth-century French social and religious practices, this is a powerful story of a life lived with enormous passion and a searing, triumphant voyage of the spirit.
A stunning and hypnotic novel by "a writer of extraordinary gifts" [Tobias Wolff], The Seal Wife tells the story of a young scientist and his consuming love for a woman known as Aleut. In 1915, Bigelow is sent to establish a weather observatory in Anchorage, Alaska, and finds that nothing has prepared him for the loneliness of a railroad town of over two thousand men and only a handful of women, of winter nights twenty hours long. And nothing can protect him from obsession-both with a woman, who seems in her silence and mystery to possess the power to destroy his life forever, and with the weather kite he designs to fly higher than any kite has ever flown before, a kite with which Bigelow plans to penetrate and know not just the sky but the heavens. A novel of passions both dangerous and generative, The Seal Wife explores the nature of desire and its ability to propel an individual beyond himself and outside conventions. Harrison brilliantly re-creates the Alaskan frontier during the period of the first World War and in lyrical prose explores the interior landscape of the psyche and human emotions - a landscape eerily continuous with the splendor and terror of the frozen frontier, the storms that blow over the earth and its face.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOKIn this exquisite book of personal reflections on a woman's life as a child, wife, and mother, Kathryn Harrison, "a writer of extraordinary gifts" (Tobias Wolff), recalls episodes in her life, exploring how the experiences of childhood recur in memory, to be transformed and sometimes healed through the lives we lead as adults. At the heart of Seeking Rapture is the notion that a woman's journey is a continuous process of transformation, an ongoing transcendence and re-creation of self.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Isabel is the troubled daughter of charismatic but reckless parents who hastily wed, divorced just as fast, and distanced themselves from each other-and their child. Left to her grandparents' care, Isabel longs for her remote, glamorous mother and for a father who is a fading memory. Unable to control her agony, Isabel rebels in perverse and dangerous ways. A captivating novel that gives new meaning to Freud's "family romance," Thicker Than Water vividly illuminates the fragile line between love and the darker sides of passion.From the Trade Paperback edition.
From acclaimed literary talent and New York Times bestselling author Kathryn Harrison comes a collection of provocative and illuminating essays. In True Crimes, conventional ideas of love, loss, forgiveness, and memory are transformed--complicated, upended, and reimagined by one of the foremost memoirists of our time. In essays written over the course of more than a decade, Kathryn Harrison has created a beautifully detailed and rigorously honest family album. With tenderness and wisdom, compassion and humor, Harrison writes about the things we don't always discuss, casting light on what lurks beneath the surface of everyday life, sifting through the artifacts of memory to find what haunts and endures. Both serious and surprising, these essays capture the moments and impulses that shape a family. In "Keeping Vigil," Harrison reflects on the loss of her beloved father-in-law, and how he managed to repair something her own father had broken. In "Holiday Lies," she describes the uneasy but necessary task of lying to her children about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, withholding certain truths to protect their innocence. In "Mini-Me," she writes about how the birth of her youngest daughter--who used to pry open a sleeping Harrison's eyes--finally allowed her to understand her own mother's complicated attitudes about parenting. And in "True Crime," Harrison writes for the first time in the almost two decades since the publication of The Kiss about her affair with her father, and how she has reckoned with the girl she once was. With gorgeous prose and unflinching self-examination, True Crimes is a powerful and unforgettable literary tour de force. Praise for True Crimes "I found myself mesmerized by Harrison's nervy confessions: odd and idiosyncratic, as original as any personal disclosures I've read and yet not obviously calculated for inflammatory effect. . . . Here, as in all of Harrison's nonfiction, there's a magnetic and almost mystical weirdness roiling beneath a seemingly placid surface."--The New York Times Book Review "It's hard to think of other memoirists who match not just Harrison's unsparing clarity of vision, but her empathy for both her loved ones and her tormentors. . . . Harrison is doubly gifted: She is able both to see her world with painful clarity, and to share this clarity with us."--New Republic "Revelatory in its honesty about everything from her scorching childhood to the push and pull of marriage."--More"A beautifully written and wonderful book about almost everything that means anything in life: love, family, loss and betrayal, death, joy. It is heartbreaking, funny, direct, elliptical, and somehow pulls a provocative healing thread of meaning from generation to generation, from husband to wife, and from life to death to life again."--Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. "In these essays, Harrison approaches her own past as a mystery--at once elusive and unshakable--and excavates its nuances with tender rigor. Her memories emerge less like artifacts and more like luminous veins of quicksilver, constantly diverging and reconnecting."--Leslie Jamison "With its sharp, haunting portraits, this gorgeous and unsettling book is like the most honest family album ever. Harrison is not afraid to plumb the darkness of family life, to look at the rage, panic, and resentments entangled with love: Her reminiscences are vivid and unforgettable."--Katie RoipheFrom the Hardcover edition.
From the bestselling author of The Kiss comes a riveting account of true crime-- the murder of a family in a small Midwestern town-- and the gripping exploration of its haunting aftermath. The Gilley family murders ended a lifetime of physical and mental abuse suffered by Billy and Jody at the hands of their parents. And it required each of the two survivors-- one a convicted murderer, the other suddenly an orphan--to create a new identity, a new life.
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