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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.
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.
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.
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 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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