More in Anger by J. Jill RobinsonFiction Monday, June 18th, 2012
About More in Anger
Just as blue eyes or a birthmark may be passed down through the generations, so too are other, far less welcome traits.
In a narrative triptych More in Anger is the poignant story of three generations of women—Opal, Pearl and Vivien—and the emotional legacy of anger that follows each of them.
In 1915 Opal King marries a man whose past is steeped in anger. Her husband’s temper and Opal’s thwarted dreams reverberate through the life of their elder daughter Pearl. As a child, Pearl mistreats her younger sister, and as an adult she mistreats her husband and daughters, even as she struggles to redeem herself. The youngest of these daughters, Vivien, strives to break free of the familial pattern before she too passes the damage on to her own daughter.
In the Mayfield family, relationship are not only formative, they are turbulent and destructive. More in Anger is a moving novel that examines the delicate relationships between mothers and daughters. J. Jill Robinson explores the inner lives of three women as they try to overcome the emotional obstacles that stand in the way of their happiness.
What fed my desire, what pushed me, year after year—for around a decade—to struggle to figure out how to tell this story?
Well, there were a number of things going on in my life as the project began to unfold. Although I had always been somewhat interested in family history, I began to think a lot more about past and future generations when I was in my late thirties and early forties. My son Emmett was born the year I turned forty. My mother and then my father died and my sisters and I dismantled our mother’s house, and our father’s house. We cleared out every drawer and cupboard and closet and shed and divvied up all their possessions. We chose, in a sense, a lot of what we inherited.
But sometimes, I got to thinking, we have no choice, and sometimes what we inherit is not welcome at all. I began to think about what could happen when what one inherited was anger, not a trinket or curly hair, and I came to realize that in my writing I wanted to explore what happens when that anger is what is passed along through generations. And I thought long and hard about how anger affects not only the angry person herself—yes, in my novel, it’s mostly the women who are angry–at themselves, at their parents, at life itself—but also the people around them—husbands; children. And what happens as those children grow up?
Much, perhaps most of my short story writing begins in autobiography, and that is true with this novel, as well. The main characters resemble, in some ways, people I know–my grandmother, my mother, and me. Almost always as I write there comes a point where the narrative won’t work if I stay too married to “what really happened” and what people “were really like.” I find that the narrative needs, in fact has to, leave “what really happened” and take flight into the realm of fiction. So while my own life and experiences may in some ways inform the novel, the novel is, finally, without question, fiction.
What are some of the themes in More In Anger? Loss, abandonment. Generation and regeneration. And women’s rights—they, too, loom over the book. What and who women have been permitted and not permitted to become of course profoundly affects how they feel about themselves, how they are valued in the eyes of others, and in turn how they treat others—children, spouses, siblings.
About the Author
J. Jill Robinson is the author of one novel, More In Anger, and four collections of short stories: Saltwater Trees (1991); Lovely In Her Bones (1993); Eggplant Wife (novella and short stories, 1995); and Residual Desire (2003). Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and literary journals including Geist, the Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead, Event, Prairie Fire and the Windsor Review.
Praise for More in Anger
~ The novel in your hands, More in Anger, accurately, meticulously, unflinchingly, looks at a single, poisonous emotion, anger, and the havoc it wreaks not only in a single life but across generations, and, by extension, leaping off the page, the havoc it wreaks within us. For who is not familiar with anger? Who doesn’t have some ember of anger smouldering deep in their soul (or not so deep), ready to be fanned and inflamed? What a disease, anger is, so common, so hard to diagnose and cure, so destructive. More in Anger fairly glowers. Its story is painful yet salutary; it grips the reader with uncomfortable closeness and yet it has the proper effect of catharsis, leaving one calm and thoughtful, thinking, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” ~ Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi and Beatrice & Virgil
~ J. Jill Robinson’s More in Anger is psychologically rich and compelling in every way. Here is a brilliant look at families, the dynamics that hold them together against all odds, and the ways in which they tear and come apart. Here is motherhood with all its generosity and resentment, its mess and magnificence. Here is the what it means to be a daughter, a wife, a lover. Aching vulnerabilities and steely strengths. Robinson is an supremely elegant writer. These characters will stay with you for a very long time.” ~ Lisa Moore, author of Open and February
~ In this three-generation portrayal of emotional destruction, Jill Robinson powerfully conveys the damage done to daughters by mothers who have never grown up. Beginning with the stifling social mores of pre-World War One in Winnipeg, More in Anger traces the inevitable fallout of pressure-cooker domesticity on Opal, then Pearl and finally Vivien, who pushes for a risky freedom in the 1970s that neither her mother nor grandmother could have imagined. The writing in this novel cuts close to home. ~ Daphne Marlatt, author of Taken and The Given
~ This is an unusual and remarkable story, both heartbreaking and hopeful. I was transfixed by the urgency of the voice, how fiercely and skillfully J. Jill Robinson cuts to the bone and lays bare the lives of these three promising women. With daring, an unswerving honesty, and without a hint a sentimentality More in Anger reminds us there is both affliction and love to be found at the heart of a family, of its power, like no other, to shape our lives. An unforgettable and compelling book. ~ Sandra Birdsell, author of The Russlander and Waiting for Joe
~ Jill Robinson’s new novel is a chilling account of the legacy of a patriarch¹s irrational rage. More in Anger is at once heartbreaking and hopeful as one woman, his granddaughter Vivian, overcomes her own self-destructive rage and accepts the gift of a new lens through which to see the world. It is a book you will not be able to put down. ~ Dianne Warren, author of Cool Water
~ In the lucky absence of the four horsemen, most of our days, indeed our lives, are filled not with profound philosophical questions but with simple human contact, with words spoken and gestures made. And what these words and gestures do, in all of us, is accumulate. More in Anger explores, over three generations, everything from relentless, self-indulgent carelessness to locked and loaded cruelty, and it asks, finally: even if we might be forgiven, should we always be excused? It’s a very good question. ~ Bonnie Burnard, author of A Good House and Suddenly
Read an INTERVIEW with J. Jill Robinson about More in Anger
Reviews of More in Anger
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Allen (April 17 2012)
More Books by J. Jill Robinson
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