Cover image for Acts of God : a novel
Acts of God : a novel
Morris, Mary, 1947-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, 2000.
Physical Description:
244 pages ; 22 cm
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In Anita Nair's warm and imaginative first novel, middle-aged bachelor Mukundan returns to his native Indian village and is haunted by the past. Determined to conquer old ghosts, Mukundan decides to restore his childhood home and hires One-Screw-Loose Bhasi, an outcast painter, to oversee the renovations. A practitioner of a unique style of healing, Bhasi sets about mending his troubled friend, but the durability of Mukundan's transformation into a better man is soon called into question. With humor, wisdom, and a keen understanding of human frailty, Anita Nair has written a playful and moving account of the redemptive power of friendship.

Author Notes

Mary Morris is a recipient of the Rome Prize for Literature and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also author of the novels House Arrest and The Night Sky and the travel memoirs Angels & Aliens and Nothing to Declare . She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Spiritually paralyzed by a painful past she refuses to face, an unenthusiastic Tess Winterstone is eventually persuaded by her concerned children to attend her thirtieth high-school reunion. Arriving back in the seemingly idyllic midwestern town where she was raised, she is immediately confronted by demons she thought she had long since buried. Past and present merge as Tess reluctantly realizes that she can never face the future unless she reexamines her own deeply dysfunctional family history. Juxtaposing poignant vignettes from Tessa's childhood with scenes from her emotionally stunted adulthood, the author paints a vivid portrait of a woman achingly afraid of self-actualization. In hauntingly beautiful, understated prose, Morris packs an emotional bang as her sympathetically drawn main character proves that although you can't go home again, it is imperative that you revisit it in order to move forward. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

"My father used to say that sometimes you think you know a person, only to find out that you don't," says narrator Tess Winterstone at the casual, engaging beginning of Morris's (House Arrest) new novel, predicting what readers may come to feel about this opaque heroine. At 48, Tess vacillates in a small California town with no real job, no close friends and few prospects. She feels "stable" to have been divorced only once. The story knits together her contradictions, showing how a boomer generation individual like Tess could exist indefinitely on a fault line. Encouraged to attend her 30th high school reunion by her grown, slacker children, Tess returns to her hometown, outside Chicago, where she encounters her erstwhile rival, Margaret Blair. Flashbacks to her school days explore Tess's tense friendship with penurious, fatherless Margaret, who inserted herself into Tess's in-crowd and stole her boyfriend. Margaret and her mother, Clarice, were a more integral part of Tess's family than she suspected, however. Tess's mother was a typical '50s homemaker, and her father, Victor, was a traveling insurance claims adjuster whose work involved visiting the scenes of natural disasters. After the reunion, rekindled friendships and an affair with Margaret's husband eventually force Tess to confront deeply buried memories and to realize that Victor's travels were an alibi for some very serious deceptions. The mechanics of this domestic intrigue are all that is revealed, however, because Morris barely scratches the surface of her characters. Dialogue is meticulously offered, details of the suburban town and the era's social mores are aptly noted, but Tess is never a knowable person, and other characters who should be vividly rendered remain sketches. Tess claims to have an "archival mind"; perhaps a novel about family secrets requires a narrator who can interpret as well as archive the facts. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Tess Winterstone grew up in Winonah, outside of Chicago, the daughter of an insurance adjuster. Now she lives on the Pacific Coast in a house she cannot insure because it will inevitably slip into the ocean. Her 30th high school reunion takes her to Winonah and brings back a flood of memories of her 1950s childhood, her late father, and Margaret, the new girl from the wrong side of the tracks who entered uninvited into Tess's social world when both girls were ten years old. Now, as quickly as before, Tess finds herself strangely bound to Margaret, despite a history of lies and deception that that the two are quickly repeating in the present. Morris does a good job of building tension, exploring Tess's motivations, and showing how Tess tries to understand Margaret. This is another worthy effort from Morris (House Arrest; Angels & Aliens), who never writes the same book twice. Recommended for public library fiction collections.DDebbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.