Praise & Reviews for Museum of Stones
Red on White: Motherhood in Lynn Lurie's Museum of Stones
The literature of motherhood, like motherhood itself, is full of different pathways. A reader or mother can venture down any number of routes through the experience, and the choices any person has in this regard are determined by luck as much as will. When I was pregnant the first time, a friend sent me Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, a popular memoir that frankly acknowledges Lamott's demons: addiction, grief for her father, the mundane travails of single parenting.
Warm and wry, it was the right thing for me to read at the time; it patterned a kind of gallows humor that buoyed me through the tender hell of newborn care. I passed it around to other new mothers. Later, deeper into motherhood, I read and loved Rachel Zucker's MOTHERs, which travels a darker (and more formally experimental) path, largely shaped by Zucker's deep disappointment in her own mother. Here was a gravel-voiced account that provided companionship by daring to admit, as Zucker puts it, "how often I feel, when with my children, 'I don't want to be here.'"
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In the novel Museum of Stones, we follow an unnamed narrator through the journey of what motherhood is really like. And in her third work, Lynn Lurie masterfully depicts this chaotic, frightening, loving, and sometimes neurotic life of being a mother to an extraordinary son. Through the unnamed narrator, Lurie brings us into the mind of a new mother to experience everything she is experiencing. We are given her life in a series of carefully chosen, interwoven vignettes that blend together the narrator's past and her present. Moving between the United States and Peru, the narrative pushes forward and backward through space and time and snares our emotions in the in-between.
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A life full of what ifs lends itself toward anxiety. The life of a new mother lends itself to the anxiety of the "what ifs." In her novel Museum of Stones Lynn Lurie depicts the hardships and the bouts of anxiety driven mania of motherhood. "I asked the nurse to count his toes and then count them again. She holds a crumpled form in front of me… I count five toes, then, five more." Through a mix of quick flash backs and unsettling time jumps, Lurie shows the fragility of the mind coupled with obsessive desire to protect and love a child.
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"In Lynn Lurie's Museum of Stones, a woman experiences parenting as a cross between profound love and constant, only sometimes low-grade terror. Swinging between the past and the present, the novel moves from the mother's rough birth of her son to her time with him in Peru when he is an adult. This work crosses genre boundaries, employing the lyricism of poetry with the character development of a novel."
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"Lynn Lurie's Museum of Stones is a magnificent and bracing trek through motherhood—its counting out of the toes, its wild-eyed griefs, its brazen too-muchness. As all mothers must, the nameless narrator traverses multiple timezones at once, shifting deftly from present tense to rear-view mirror, interior tableaux to Lake Titicaca. Stylistically, the work proceeds through use of collage, carefully paced paragraphs. Put another way, in a series of well-placed stones of urgent prose poetry, Museum of Stones reveals the fates in store for this newborn boy: wrists "no wider than a straw" and sternum sporting a tiny tower of gauze, hospital monitors aglow in their wide range of numbers and, later, "neatly folded sheets of paper crammed with lists of [the boy's] numerical codes." As the book moves through the trials and triumphs of this extraordinary and brilliant child, it points up select scenes from his parents' marriage, alongside succulent details about petty goings-on in the extended family. Perhaps most important, the book illumines beautifully the mutable states of the mother: the means by which she must, with such tenacity—beginning, middle and end—carve herself, "no distortions or duplications," from what precious daily clay is left."
"Parenthood has its many nightmares—a sizable genre of which could be labelled 'The Inadequacy of One's Love.' Lynn Lurie's Museum of Stones is a devastating and beautiful collage of such nightmarish scenes, broken shards layered to accurately reflect decades of heartbreaking and terrifying tableaux, now muffled (yet terrorizing still) in the cotton of memory. And yet what thin, sweet ray does shoot through is that the love, indeed, was human-sized and enough."
"Lynn Lurie writes here with precision, power, and clarity about all that is most important—those things that sizzle and shriek, burn, and roar in the tunnels and caverns of the heart. Museum of Stones is a beautiful book and Lurie a marvelous writer."
"The radiance of Lynn Lurie's vision emanates from the devastating frisson between the fragility of the body and the futility of love to spare us the desolating solitude of grief. In Museum of Stones, the enormity of the speaker's loss pulses through each piercing iteration of her child's story. Yet writing itself is hope, attention a kind of prayer, an insistence on life, testimony to the desire to recover the shreds and shards of memory, to make from them a space where all things at once are and ever shall be possible."
"At the center of Museum of Stones exists the nameless narrator's son, whose frail presence helps weave together memory, hurt, hope, and the grim realization that in the end we're all made of holes, not wholes. Lurie's novel is at once a beautifully condensed, understated, brave, risky associative lyric, a passionate and compassionate meditation, and a gorgeous elegy about the temporal rubble of us."
"Museum of Stones is a dreamy, haunting, clamorous book by one of the bravest souls anywhere."
"Museum of Stones has the scope of a novel, the concision of a novella, and the speed and movement of a prose poem. Remote, but intimate; terribly poignant, yet remorselessly unsentimental. It creates and sustains a compact with the reader… the structure unfolds to reveal new thought and language. Museum of Stones is a tour de force."