Clare, Loving

Written in three linked novellas that move from present day Chicago to the Bicentennial summer of 1976 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and New Orleans, and then to Minnesota of the late-1950’s, Clare, Loving is a novel about Clare McHenry, whose mirroring estrangements from her mother and daughter are shaped by the puzzles of religion, men, silence, and the spiraling of time. Given the book’s reverse narration, there is a normal accretion of detail and an added unfolding of layers that carries the reader “forward” to the seminal action. As “Sylvie” opens, Clare has just learned that her daughter, faraway in Texas, has given birth to a son. By the close of “The Nuns on the Roof of St. Peter’s,” ten year old Clare has been distanced from her own mother and introduced to the sexual and religious guilt that roils her later life. In the intervening section, “The Beautiful Ships,” Clare pursues a passionate, secret, and disastrous affair with the unexpected man who becomes Sylvie’s father.

From the Interview:
Both Luc and Clare in Clare Loving are fascinating, complicated characters, and your portrayal of their troubled love affair strikes exactly the right note in The Beautiful Ships, the middle novella in which the two struggle over her pregnancy. How did you conceive of the book’s three-part structure in terms of these two characters and their evolution through time?

—Marianne Herrmann, St. Louis Park, Minnesota

Marianne, I want to explore this question fully because it really interests me, but I think I should give a spoiler alert for readers who haven’t yet read the book. If you’re a reader who wants to be surprised by the revelation of a key fact (the important answer Clare keeps from her daughter and us until halfway through “Sylvie,” the first novella), don’t read this until you’re at least at that point the book. Read more…

Excerpts:
From “Sylvie
More “Sylvie”
From “The Beautiful Ships
More “The Beautiful Ships”
From “The Nuns on the Roof of St. Peter’s
More “Nuns”

Audio Excerpts:
From “Sylvie
From “The Beautiful Ships

Music Links:
Renée Fleming, “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” Dvořák Gypsy Melodies, The Beautiful Voice
Luciano Pavorotti, “Nessun Dorma,” Turandot, Puccini
Dave Bartholomew, “Domino-Bartholomew Medley,” New Orleans Big Beat
Norah Jones, “Wish I Could,” Not Too Late
Julius Katchen, “Ballade in G Minor,” Brahms

To explore further, look in Bonus Excerpts in Excerpts for Baseball Moments, Bar Scenes and Church Scenes.

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