Constellations of Eve

Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood, 1990-

Book - 2022

"An intimate portrait of one woman's battles against her own destructive impulses in love, her obsession with her art, and the envy that poisons her most treasured friendship"--

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Psychological fiction
Lubbock : Texas Tech University Press 2022.
Main Author
Abbigail Nguyen Rosewood, 1990- (author)
Physical Description
211 pages ; 24 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

With its three versions of a romance, Rosewood's exquisite and experimental novel in stories (after If I Had Two Lives) offers a transfixing meditation on love, envy, and obsession. Each story explores the relationship between two characters named Eve and Liam, with details about their lives changed. "The Mute Sculpture" follows Eve, a gifted artist, from college through her mid 20s. She is fixated on her beautiful roommate, Pari, and compulsively sketches her. The drawings eventually earn her an exhibition in Florence, but her career flags after she marries Liam, a furniture maker. They have a son, and Eve struggles with insecurity as a wife and mother. In "The Soft Shackle," Eve's paintings of Pari launch both artist and subject into fame. In this iteration, Pari, a scientist and model, is pregnant with middle-aged Liam's child. But at Liam and Pari's wedding, Liam pines for Eve, whom he met in Florence before Pari. "Being Eve" finds Eve and Liam as a long-married couple--childless, old, and mulling over their "easy life," with Eve working as a teacher and Liam a figure of steady support. Each iteration builds upon the previous one, culminating in a brilliant harmony made all the more aching for its exploration of all that the characters cannot have at once. Throughout, Rosewood mesmerizes with her own artistry, such as this depiction of Liam consumed by Eve's paintings of Pari: "It was as though Eve had inserted herself inside, invaded Pari's body with dabs of her own feelings, her paint." This is stunning. Agent: Stacy Testa, Writer's House. (May)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

In three different incarnations, Eve is given the chance to "get it right" in a familiar struggle between vocation, marriage, and motherhood. Eve is a devoted mother, a wife, and a painter. Or rather, she's all three but can only be fully devoted to one at a time. In this three-part novel, we experience three possible paths for Eve; Rosewood weighs each version like a chemist, precisely and intentionally changing the size of three variables in Eve's life: her son, Blue; her husband, Liam; and her best friend, Pari, the sole subject of Eve's portraits. As a mother, Eve is negligent and intellectually unfulfilled. When her son accidentally drowns, she is completely subsumed by his phantom, losing her husband in the process. As an artist, Eve is a portrait of hesitation, unable to act on her desires for anything beyond her work. In the last section, the only one where Eve and Liam's relationship has any longevity, we know it is at the cost of motherhood and vocation. Across these alternate realities, Rosewood explores the cost of love, the notion that complete devotion to any one thing creates an unfulfilled life. Using visual art and the artistic vocation as a metaphor for writing is a familiar trope; where Rosewood stands out is in her unromantic meditation on the grotesque in beauty. The three parts of the novel act as reincarnations: three opportunities for characters to grow and reform themselves. Anything that remains static here is not immortal but corpselike. Pari's beauty, obsessively recorded in each of Eve's paintings, becomes like the sculpture Eve makes of her dead son--creepy. While the novel sometimes feels overly self-conscious, Rosewood's haunting prose and the moments when the three alternate universes bump up against each other are delightful. Just a shadow exists on the page, but a way to reconcile Eve's three identities hovers just out of reach, for the reader to create in their own life. A harrowingly beautiful exploration of unrequited love and the fallout of single-minded devotion. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.