Cricket in a Fist by Naomi K. LewisCricket in a Fist by Naomi K. Lewis

Cricket in a Fist

byNaomi K. Lewis

Paperback | February 22, 2008

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One night, Agatha Winter's phone rings. Jasmine, her 13-year-old sister, has run away from home and needs to be picked up at the bus terminal. It's the anniversary of their mother's accident and subsequent split from the family. Jasmine is determined to exact revenge. Their mother, now a flashy self-help guru under a new moniker, preaches "willing amnesia": liberation by deliberately forgetting and disowning the past.

But "willing amnesia" is no innovation: it runs in the family. The girls' grandmother and great-grandmother, both Holocaust survivors, have found their own superficially innocuous yet fiercely destructive ways to fend off memory. In separate struggles, the girls work to break free from the burden of their family's silence.

Told in three major and two minor voices, Cricket in a Fist offers sophisticated psychological insight. Lewis's rich command of language transports us into a world of richly imagined characters.

Naomi K. Lewis was born in England, lived in Washington DC, and grew up in Ottawa. Her stories have been published in the Fiddlehead, the New Quarterly, the Antigonish Review, Prairie Fire, and Grain. "The Guiding Light," a chapter of the novel that began as a story, won the Fiddlehead Fiction Prize in 2007. Lewis now lives in Edmonto...
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Title:Cricket in a FistFormat:PaperbackDimensions:268 pages, 8.49 × 5.46 × 0.61 inPublished:February 22, 2008Publisher:GOOSE LANE EDITIONSLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:086492495X

ISBN - 13:9780864924957

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engrossing characters Haunted memories of the holocaust that are hidden, forgotten, and confessed intertwine the lives of three generations of one family. Buried burdens simultaneously bind and free the characters. The book explores how a pivotal moment, an accident leading to a loss of memory, leads the characters to question everything they thought was real, even their own sense of identity. It leads to the creation of a new identity for one character. The other characters realize that they need to create identities separate from the family members who threaten to hold them in the past. The narrative is driven by well developed, engrossing characters that you care about. The writing is fresh and the voices of the different characters ring true. A thoroughly satisfying read. A good book club choice.
Date published: 2009-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engrossing characters Haunted memories of the holocaust that are hidden, forgotten, and confessed intertwine the lives of three generations of one family. Buried burdens simultaneously bind and free the characters. The book explores how a pivotal moment, an accident leading to a loss of memory, leads the characters to question everything they thought was real, even their own sense of identity. It leads to the creation of a new identity for one character. The other characters realize that they need to create identities separate from the family members who threaten to hold them in the past. The narrative is driven by well developed, engrossing characters that you care about. The writing is fresh and the voices of the different characters ring true. A thoroughly satisfying read. A good book club choice.
Date published: 2009-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from You'll Remember This One! This is an intriguing novel told through various points of view and documenting a family's tendencies towards "willing amnesia" as a survival technique for various tragedies. While some of the jumping around between the various viewpoints and voices was at first confusing and frustrating for me as a reader, the manner in which the author intermingled these voices, carefully peeling the onion, so to speak, unraveling the past and showing how it intermingled with the present worked out beautifully in the end, creating a fascinating document of a family's history and how all the various strands were interconnected.
Date published: 2008-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An exciting new Canadian talent This is a novel of rare beauty by what I see as a major new Canadian talent. I found 'Cricket in a Fist', with its strange and gentle narative and its wonderfully original characters not only engaging and entertaining but moving. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, and some while later, I still feel haunted by it. This is one of those books that stays with you long after you close the cover, subtly changing the way you see the world and the people in it. A wonderful read! Highly recommended.
Date published: 2007-12-29

From the Author

Q&A with Naomi K. LewisThis is your first foray into fiction. How did you come up with the idea for this work?The ideas for Cricket in a Fist came together over a long time. Initially, I just had the idea to write a story set in a hair salon; then I wanted to write about a character that suffers some kind of accident and uses it as excuse to remake herself. I've always been fascinated by how a group of people can witness the same event and each interpret it completely differently. All those ideas and others eventually clicked together - or maybe I forced them together.What was the creative process like for you?It took me about three years, once I started writing seriously. I wrote almost every day for a year and then I spent a year sending the manuscript to publishers. Once it was accepted for publication, I spent another year revising and rewriting, which was challenging, because I was working almost full-time as general manager of a magazine. I wrote about 100 new pages for the second version, and completely changed the book's structure.When I began Cricket in a Fist, I only had a clear picture of two characters, Agatha and Ginny, and of a few key scenes. I gradually got to know the rest of the characters and it took even longer to figure out what was actually going on with these people. I just kept writing scenes and struggling to see the big picture. Goose Lane's fiction editor told me that first novels are the hardest, because the writer hasn't yet learned how to hold the whole story in her head at once. She said that first-time novelists usually have an aha-moment, when they suddenly see the forest for the trees. I think that was true for me.Everything became easier when I went back, late in the process, and actually started writing again from the beginning. I even retyped sections that I didn't want to change. And at that point, I could finally conceive of my work as one coherent narrative.Who did you read as a kid, and how did these first forays into reading fiction affect your sensibilities as a writer?As a kid, I read anything I could get my hands on. I preferred reading fiction over any other activity, and read all my books two or three times at least. I loved Madeleine's L'Engle and Judy Blume, the Ramona books, the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables, all the typical girl stuff. I also read random books from my parents' bookshelf, probably traumatizing myself for life by reading 1984 at the age of 10 or so. All that reading definitely made me want to be a writer. I thought I would write novel for young adults, since those were my first love, book-wise. I still I think I might do that eventually, and I'm always drawn to writing about children and teenagers. I'm just fascinated by childhood and adolescence -when every experience is new and surprising.What are you reading right now?I'm reading a lot of non-fiction, since I'm doing research for a new novel. I'm reading about international adoption right now, and also books about Judaism and Islam. In terms of fiction, I'm reading The Fighter by Craig Davidson, and also King Leary by Paul Quarrington.How and where do you write?I write in my home office, and often at the public library and in cafes.Do you write with a certain audience in mind? Who is your "ideal reader"?I don't write with an audience in mind at all. As soon as I start thinking about audience, I start to worry about offending someone, or that people won't like my work. So I write in a totally self-absorbed state of mind.Name one person in your life who profoundly influenced your work, and why did you choose this person?I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that everyone I know influences my writing, since all my relationships and even conversations help me see the world in novel ways.Who is your favourite protagonist in a work of fiction or poetry, and why?If I have to choose just one, I'll go with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I love how Harper Lee portrays the story through the eyes of this little girl, who sees situations in idiosyncratic ways, and who takes her time figuring out the strange actions of the adults around her. As Scout struggles to understand to understand the complexities of the adult world, the reader can see how absurd and tragic those events really are. There's just something so compelling about seeing a story through the eyes of a child.In your own work, which character are you most attached to, and why?In a way, I'm most interested in Ginny, the character in Cricket in a Fist that readers tend to despise. She's so selfish that she doesn't even realize how she affects people. There's something fascinating to me about a character who doesn't think about other people at all, except to blame them for things - who pushes those solipsistic moments we all have to their extreme, and turns them into a philosophy.Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.I guess you could say that the overarching theme of Cricket in a Fist is family and selfhood, and the continuity of self over time. I was thinking about children and parents, and how, in adolescence, we often fantasize about replacing our flawed parents with perfect ones. Sometimes we say horrible things to our parents during those years, almost verging on homicidal, and they just have to take it. I imagined a scenario in which a young girl wished her mother's personality would change and then had to deal with the reality of that wish coming true. That's where the idea started.

Read from the Book

She was walking downstairs fast, pointy heeled black pumps clicking on the salon's grey tiled stairs, and I was standing hand-in-hand with my four-year-old sister. Minnie was disguised as Fireman Jeff, a character of her own devising, and my hair was bright red. From the top step, I watched my mother's descent. Below me and Minnie, the back of Mama's trench coat swished, her stiff-sprayed hair bounced; we watched her hurry down the stairs, one hand skimming the orange handrail. I saw where Mama's left foot was headed, saw the roof of Minnie's beloved plastic fire truck. I don't know what I heard first - my sister's shriek, the audible crack of ankle-bone or the fire truck clattering down the stairs. Mama's ankle buckled and her body twisted as she struggled for balance. She spun around, arms raised like a surrender, and she was facing us when she fell. Ankles bent unnaturally, arms raised inelegantly, she looked right at me like a diver who'd already leapt. She seemed to hover there before her fists clutched air, knees gave way, head bent back. The smells in the stairwell were faint and chemical: perm solution, hair dye, nail polish remover. The wallpaper was brown and beige paisley with little orange leaves that matched the handrail and the door.Our grandmother, Tam-Tam, heard the crash from behind the front desk of the salon; she pushed past us down the stairs, held Mama's hand and sent us outside to wait in the rain. We heard the siren a minute before we saw the ambulance hurtling toward us down the block, traffic parting for our mother's rescuers. Two paramedics carried a stretcher through the rust-coloured door. Beside the curb, a fire truck's lights were flashing. Minnie sucked her bottom lip hopefully. In the hospital waiting room, Tam-Tam, in her cashmere sweater, sipped tea, leaving lipstick prints on the white styrofoam. My sister rested on Dad's lap, staring at a baseball-capped man with a huge piece of gauze taped to his bony shin; later, when it was dark outside and she'd irrevocably missed trick-or-treating, Minnie curled up on a chair under Dad's jacket. The first thing he said to me, running his finger gently down my forehead: "What did those imbeciles do to your hair?" I pulled away from his hand. "It's just semi-permanent. It was supposed to be for my Halloween costume." "Take a look in the mirror." The hair dye had dripped in the rain, and long streaks down my forehead and around my eyebrows had pooled and dried under the frames of my glasses. My Halloween makeup was ruined, sparkly dark eyeliner smudged under my eyes, and there was a wine-like stain around the neck of my T-shirt. After putting my hair in a ponytail, I folded my glasses onto the sink-top and peeled off the red false lashes, painfully removing a few of my real lashes in the process. I scrubbed my face with hand soap, dried my skin with paper towels. The nurse moved us to another waiting room, through a set of doors and less crowded, and kept calling Dad aside, talking in a way that made him stoop to hear, nod as if he understood. He told us that Mama had hit her head hard, that we couldn't leave until we knew how badly she was hurt. I wasn't eager to go home and change into my red dress and the matching wings I'd made from a coat hanger and pantyhose. If anything, I was glad I'd be missing the Halloween dance. The television in the waiting room played sitcoms, the evening news, eventually Saturday Night Live. I was fifteen. I was touching my sore lips with the tips of my fingers, thinking about the blond, cigarette-smelling boy I'd kissed under the stairs at school the day before.One evening, just months earlier, Mama had left our house by taxi, tea towel wrapped tight around the hand she'd cut along with the carrots for our dinner. At regular intervals, Dad drove her away in the night, Mama wheezing or limping or retching. She was accident-and-illness-prone, but she always recovered, and she'd been hospitalized so many times we'd come to believe she was invincible. Dad and Tam-Tam would say later that my sister sensed before anyone else that this time was different. "She cried through the whole taxi ride to the hospital," Tam-Tam said. She described Minnie's restrained and sorrowful snuffling, "Not like one of her tantrums." I didn't correct them, didn't argue that she was only crying out of disappointment over not getting to ride in the fire truck, the first real one she'd ever seen.

Editorial Reviews

One night, Agatha Winter's phone rings. Jasmine, her 13-year-old sister, has run away from home and needs to be picked up at the bus terminal. It's the anniversary of their mother's accident and subsequent split from the family. Jasmine is determined to exact revenge. Their mother, now a flashy self-help guru under a new moniker, preaches "willing amnesia": liberation by deliberately forgetting and disowning the past. But "willing amnesia" is no innovation: it runs in the family. The girls' grandmother and great-grandmother, both Holocaust survivors, have found their own superficially innocuous yet fiercely destructive ways to fend off memory. In separate struggles, the girls work to break free from the burden of their family's silence. Told in three major and two minor voices, Cricket in a Fist offers sophisticated psychological insight. Lewis's rich command of language transports us into a world of richly imagined characters."Cricket in a Fist lays a handful of fingers on what goes wrong when we are young. There's a whole family of trouble beating here, and Naomi K. Lewis gives voice to it all — a smartly structured, tender, and candid first novel." — Michael Winter, author of The Big Why - 20120504