Pumpjack Book Reviews

When not writing, we are usually reading. And sharing our perspective on those books. Check out our About page to find out how to suggest a book for review consideration or to provide one of your own. #bookreview

Book Review: Forty Rooms by Olga Grushkin

A superb story told with a light touch that beautifully renders the shattering choices a woman artist (in this case, a poet) must navigate if she is to remain dedicated to art.

A singe life set in forty rooms — the number possibly selected to echo the forty-day journey of Noah on his Ark, traveling above, below and through the flood of existence. The premise is intriguing, and despite the constraints of the narrative framework, the author writes deftly and even, in some of the rooms, lyrically.

While the architectural artifice helps to provide story-telling momentum, ultimately, I found the construct of Forty Rooms by Olga Grushkin, on balance, distracting as I wondered at the close of each chapter what different room could possibly still be available in which to set a pivotal life event, especially since the protagonist lives much of her life in a single house – albeit a conveniently large one.

That said, the book still rises above its own construction without need for the architectural artifice: a superb story told with a light touch that beautifully renders the shattering choices a woman artist (in this case, a poet) must navigate if she is to remain dedicated to art. The author brutally chronicles the gradual disintegration of a bright child’s dream of a poetic life as she capitulates with one small decision (or non-decision) after another to the demands of domesticity, materialism, babies and laundry and the accompanying increasingly twisted rationalizations and mind trick necessary to maintain sanity.

There are a number of interesting tactics and twists in the book, including diverging life directions (which one is real?) and ghostly talks with a muse. I enjoyed this book and recommend it.