Monday, July 07, 2008

Pg. 69: Roxana Robinson's "Cost"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Roxana Robinson's Cost.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Julia Lambert, an art professor, settles into her idyllic Maine house for the summer, she plans to spend the time tending her fragile relationships with her father, a repressive neurosurgeon, and her gentle mother, who is descending into Alzheimer’s. But a shattering revelation intrudes: Julia’s son Jack has spiraled into heroin addiction.

In an attempt to save him, Julia marshals help from her looseknit clan: elderly parents; remarried ex-husband; removed sister; and combative eldest son. Ultimately, heroin courses through the characters’ lives with an impersonal and devastating energy, sweeping the family into a world in which deceit, crime, and fear are part of daily life.

Roxana Robinson is the author of Sweetwater, which Booklist called a “hold-your-breath novel of loss and love.” Billy Collins praised Robinson as “a master at moving from the art of description to the work of excavating the truths about ourselves.”

In Cost, Robinson tackles addiction and explores its effects on the bonds of family, dazzling us with her hallmark subtlety and precision in evoking the emotional interiors of her characters. The result is a work in which the reader’s sense of discovery and compassion for every character remains unflagging to the end, even as the reader, like the characters, is caught up in Cost’s breathtaking pace.
Among the early acclaim for the novel:
“‘Cost’ is unsparing but not bleak. There is urgency in the narrative; you keep hoping for a rescue and you care about these complex people even when you want to shake them for behaving badly. There is bitter humor in the family's uneasy alliance with the rehab counselor. You could learn a lot from this novel about the family dynamics of addiction. But what makes Ms. Robinson much more than a very good reporter is her searching compassion for these flawed people. . . . ‘Cost’ is both lyrical and unsentimental, richly honest and humane—summer reading of uncommon stature.”
The Wall Street Journal

“‘Cost’ is unusual for being as plot-driven as it is character-driven, and the assured manner in which Robinson builds toward the inevitable train wreck is matched by her acuity in bringing us inside the characters’ minds. . . .[Julia] gains the strength not only to bear a grievous separation from her younger son but, more significant, to question the separations she has imposed on the most intimate relationships in her life. Why, she wonders, has she done this? . . . Robinson has already shown us why, having exhumed the many reasons in the preceding pages. But the question remains worth asking, not only by Julia but by any of these characters—by anyone, period, still struggling to connect. With the novel’s final words, which made me catch my breath, Robinson suggests the enormous stakes involved in pursuing the answer.”
The New York Times Book Review

Cost is a gritty portrait of the havoc wreaked upon a family by one member's drug addiction. Roxana Robinson's vivid, sensuous prose moves effortlessly among relationships and points of view, evoking a brutal war between familial love—in its infinite power and mystery—and the mechanical devastations of pathology.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of The Keep

“Roxana Robinson is surely one of the most graceful stylists and psychologically perceptive writers working . . . Cost approaches the subject of drugs’ impact from an original and very significant angle. This book shows further the extent of Robinson’s insights into the whirl, the generational ironies at work, and desperate indulgences to which we turn in our confusion. Cost is an important timely book that furthers insight into our preset fortunes and dilemmas."
—Robert Stone, author of Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties
Read an excerpt from Cost, and learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

Roxana Robinson is the author of three earlier novels and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times, Best American Short Stories, and Vogue, among other publications. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.

The Page 69 Test: Roxana Robinson's Cost.

--Marshal Zeringue