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The Marriage of Sticks
Jonathan Carroll
Victor Gollancz, 282 pages

The Marriage of Sticks
Jonathan Carroll
Jonathan Carroll was born in 1949 in New York. His father was a screenwriter; his mother an actress and lyricist. He attended Rutgers University then the University of Virginia. He became an English teacher, eventually moving to the American International School in Vienna, Austria, in 1974. Carroll still lives in Vienna with his family.

Jonathan Carroll Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Reading List: Jonathan Carroll
SF Site Review: Kissing the Beehive
SF Site Review: From The Teeth of Angels

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

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What irks you most about Jonathan Carroll's books? Is it the way they go out of print too quickly? Is it the too-cool characters you wish were part of your circle of buddies? Is it the endings that don't always work? Is it the remarkable turn-of-phrase he can deliver so carefully off-hand? Is it the odd pacing of his plots? Is it the quirkiness of the pets he describes?

For me, The Marriage of Sticks is all of these and none of these.

The Marriage of Sticks is told in first person by Miranda, a rare book dealer, who delights in finding that one book her customers can't live without. She's a popular, attractive woman who loves her lucrative career which allows her to travel a good part of the year. But like any Carroll character, there is a particular hollowness to her; something she's lost, she's missing, she's yet to find. Reminds me a lot of Thomas Abbey, the hero of Land of Laughs.

Miranda's new lover, Hugh Oakley, leaves his family for her only to disappear from her life. She has a visit from an unborn child who betrays her, hurts her. She knows her home is going to burn down but she doesn't own a house. She sees a strikingly familiar wheelchair-bound woman abandoned on the freeway but she doesn't stop to help. Only after she meets and is befriended by Frances Hatch does she begin to realize what the future holds and how she'll be judged. Frances is as "old as the hills", a plain-talker who doesn't have the time to dawdle around with people. We get a clue now and then but it soon becomes obvious enough that Frances may hold the key to long life and redemption (at least the way it can be defined in reasonable terms). But Miranda has to decide whether she is willing to make the sacrifice required to pay the price. For her past holds secrets of the pain and suffering she has suffered as well as inflicted on those who were close.

I've always harboured a secret desire to be a writer. This would probably startle my friends. I've often said aloud that "I'm a reader, nor a writer." But I'd like to think of myself as such in the same way some want to be an astronaut, actor or architect. I don't want to do the work, I don't want to put in the time, I just want to be known as a writer. Sorta like the guy down the street who is going to be rich some day. He just has to find the right score. What sort of writer, you may ask? I want to be Jonathan Carroll. Big surprise, eh? And... maybe I'd toss in a little James Blaylock to keep things in perspective.

The joys and the aches of Jonathan Carroll's characters come piecing through in this novel. You'll travel on a journey of joyous humour and burdening sorrow. Yet on the other side, you'll be glad he was willing to let you tag along. The Marriage of Sticks is a tasty treat that'll make you wish you were a writer too.

Copyright © 1999 by Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."


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