Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Bertrand Court"

Michelle Brafman is the author of Washing the Dead. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Tablet, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Slate, Lilith Magazine, the minnesota review, and elsewhere. She teaches fiction writing at the Johns Hopkins University MA in Writing Program and lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

Brafman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Bertrand Court, and reported the following:
Excerpt from “What Hannah Never Knew,” Bertrand Court
Sylvia caressed the slender handle of the spoon in her pocket; its metal ridge moved up and down against her leg as she walked. Her sister was expecting a child on Thanksgiving Day, and Sylvia knew she should give her their grandmother’s baby soon. Soon Sylvia would turn thirty, too old for babies. Besides, Irving said no more trying; two accidents, that was enough. He sent his girl Katie Flanagan from the office to teach Sylvia about the rhythm method. The nerve. She knew he used to shtup Katie before he and Sylvia got serious. She swallowed her humiliation, felt it lodge in her stomach, where Dr. Klein told her that her ulcer was forming.
When I first flipped open my book to page 69, I was a little skeptical about this literary instrument. This page represents the only story that occurs outside the timeline of a collection of very tightly linked narratives. Then I realized that Sylvia’s deliberations over keeping the spoon from her sister not only set the emotional stage for subsequent stories but convey the larger themes of the book. Like every other one of the twenty-plus narrators, Sylvia behaves badly in response to life’s pressures, in her case her bitterness about her marriage, jealousy over her sister’s fecundity, and silent unaired grief over the babies she’s miscarried. This decision to keep the spoon will ultimately ruin her relationship with her sister, and the accompanying tension and fear that cleaves to this object will plague Hannah Solonsky, Sylvia’s great niece, who will steal the spoon back from her aunt (but that’s all I’ll say for now). This book is about our bad choices and how we seek and grant forgiveness for them. No other moment distills this idea to its very essence. What a magical test!
Visit Michelle Brafman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Bertrand Court.

--Marshal Zeringue