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  • The Crossley Baby
  • Written by Jacqueline Carey
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307480637
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The Crossley Baby

Written by Jacqueline CareyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jacqueline Carey

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: December 10, 2008
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48063-7
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Bridget, Jean, and Sunny Crossley grow up in modest circumstances on Long Island, and all end up in the New York City of the 1980s. Free spirit Bridget, the oldest, is a well-traveled, sometime massage therapist in the East Village. Outspoken Jean is a corporate headhunter in double-breasted power suits who lives in a gleaming Upper East Side tower. Harvard-educated Sunny, the youngest and sweetest sister, drifts from eligible boyfriend to eligible boyfriend until she falls for a Harlem real estate developer and starts a family.

When Bridget dies unexpectedly during what should have been a routine operation, she leaves behind a ten-month-old girl named Jade. The big question becomes: Who should take the baby? The obvious and expert Sunny, or the never-at-home career woman Jean? The answer is, of course, more complicated than either sister could have anticipated.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpt

The Cork Line

The feuds were such a joke. The Crossley girls had laughed about them for years. Once upon a time their father had mentioned certain "disputes" shamefacedly, but later even he joined in the merriment. It certainly didn't matter to these three free-thinking, dope-smoking, miniskirted girls that a quarrel between heirs had broken up the original "Crossley's," one of the biggest jewelry businesses in Boston. Early photos made it look like a ratty old cigar box, anyway. And the girls relished details of other fights: Two maiden aunts had had a brick wall built down the center of their Victorian house in Dorchester, the better to avoid each other; back in County Cork, one Crossley and his widowed sister hadn't spoken for the last twenty years of their lives, although they slept in the same cottage and sat across the kitchen table from each other three times a day. There was actually a line drawn down the center of the table. Can you imagine!

When the two younger sisters, Jean and Sunny, shared a bedroom back in high school, Jean laid a strip of masking tape across the middle of the floorboards and called it the "Cork Line," as in "I don't care if you do open the window as long as the air doesn't venture over the Cork Line," or, about a guy Sunny had met at the Paw Valley Post Office, "Just keep Mr. Dick on your side of the Cork Line."

"I could swear I heard something just then," Sunny would say, turning the pages of a magazine with ostentatious languor. "But such a screechy sound couldn't have been human."

Even oddball Bridget, the oldest, picked up on the term. As an adult, Jean would occasionally mention the fact that Bridget's bedroom had not only been hers alone, but had also been the biggest in the house. Bridget was generally too distracted to notice, but once she said, "I have a Cork Line running down the center of my soul!" Jean snickered, but Sunny grabbed Bridget and hugged her and cooed at her and tickled her ribs until Jean finally said, "Yuck. Let's keep this PG," and Sunny said, "Oh, you just can't stand it that I'm so much nicer than you are."

The call, when it came, was between Jean and Sunny. It took place on December 18, 1990, shortly after lunch. Sunny wasn't planning to answer the phone; she was trying to figure out which cardboard carton held the bulk of the Christmas ornaments. She could find only a few of the most fragile, which had their own four-inch-square boxes tucked in among the holiday books and tapes. This was going to be the first Christmas since Sunny and her family had left the city. Bridget, who was scheduled to have a fibroid removed, would be coming up with her ten-month-old daughter, Jade, in a couple of days to recuperate a little before the twenty-fifth, and Sunny wanted to have put up as many decorations as possible beforehand.

It helped that Sunny's new house looked like an old Christmas tin: lit-up mullioned windows, a wreath on the door, a dusting of snow, an embrace of spruce. Because the rooms were still nearly bare of furniture, nothing commonplace interfered with the holiday setting. The pungent, sappy odor of evergreen drifted upstairs and down, thanks to the Scotch pine branches tacked over the arch to the dining room, the Doug fir Sunny's husband had cut on their own property, the basket of pinecones by the fireplace. That afternoon the kids were going to help decorate a gingerbread house she'd made from a kit. Three different sets of friends were expected up from the city around the day itself. Lists in her little loopy handwriting were scattered everywhere: Presents still to buy. Tips to be handed out. And lots of food. Ingredients for the marinade, ingredients for the pie crust, ingredients for the cookie dough. Eggnog, Burgundy, and a cheap champagne for the mimosas on Christmas morning. Already in a corner of the kitchen next to some stripped paneling (the house was a real fixer-upper) stood a large pile of holiday cakes and breads, olives and nuts, truffles and candy canes.

The ornaments were key--so important that an obscure hierarchy had evolved over the years. If Linc, who was five, got to put on the shiny fabric fish Bridget had brought back from Beijing one year, then Ruth, who was almost four, got to hang the butterfly. If Linc got the gingerbread boy, Ruth got the girl. There were also more complicated equivalences. The nutcracker, for instance, equaled both the pipe-cleaner bear and either the red-and-green-striped metal sled or Leon's white menorah, a nod to his cultural past. Then there were those ornaments the kids left for Sunny, including the red and silver glass balls from an ancient Woolworth's and a small, lacy brass frame that Jean had given them. Inside was a picture of Jean herself, eating a sandwich. In the hierarchy of relatives, it was weirdo Bridget who was on the top.

When the call came that December 18, the person at the other end claimed to be Sunny's sister Jean, but the voice sounded put-on. That is, Sunny could tell it was Jean, but Jean had the sort of strained tone she used to affect when she'd leave messages pretending to be a Hollywood agent or the president of the United States. It was as if Jean were calling up pretending to be Jean. Which was annoying, but odd enough that Sunny put down the manger scene she was unwrapping from its tissue paper and picked up the phone.

"Jean?" she said, implying by the confusion in her voice that she hadn't just been deciding whether to answer.

Jean said that something had gone wrong with Bridget's operation.

"Someday, Jean, you are going to go too far," said Sunny.

"I'm just telling you what happened," said Jean.

Something on the back of Sunny's neck began to rise. "What was it?" she said.

"They're being kind of cagey. But I think she's, well, dead."

"There's obviously some mistake," Sunny said.

"Really?"

"Nothing could have gone wrong with the operation," said Sunny. "It was very routine. She was supposed to be home in a few hours."

"Oh," said Jean. "I thought you knew something."

"Just tell me how someone could have died of such a routine operation. Bridget's been all over the world. She stumbled into a civil war, and she was fine."

"If you don't know anything . . ."

"I suppose she could have been in a car accident on the way to the hospital," Sunny mused. "It's possible."

There was a silence.

"Did they get her confused with someone else?" said Sunny in a sudden panic. She heard the intercom squawk in Jean's office.

Jean said, "Tell him I'll call him back."

Sunny struggled to remain civil. "You're at work?" she said.

"It's Tuesday. Of course I'm at work."

Sunny could have cut Jean open on an operating table right then and there, but the image that accompanied this desire--an everyday, real-life figure superimposed on a Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory--made her double up, and she found herself crouching on her knees, her face six inches from a cracked black diamond in the kitchen floor. "I have to go," she said into the phone, and hit the hang-up button.

Still doubled over, intently examining the gray curve of the receiver, she punched the memory button for her husband's office. "And how are you, Mrs. Dane?" said Brianna brightly. The receptionist. Sunny thought she'd been laid off.

"Connect me, connect me," said Sunny. And to her husband she said, "Jean thinks something happened to Bridget."

"Thinks?"

"The operation," she said.

"I'll be right there."

The drive up from Harlem would take more than an hour. Sunny hit the second button, which was for Bridget. There was her voice on the announcement, the same as always. "Bridget!" cried Sunny. "Call me immediately! You won't believe what just happened!"

One of the last few buttons was for Jean's office, but Sunny couldn't place which. She couldn't remember the last time she'd called her. Sunny hit the "9" and got a man's voice: "Poison Control. May I have the name of the child involved?"

On the second try, she got a double hello, first from Jean's receptionist, then from Jean herself, who had a way of speaking sometimes--holding the words way back in her throat--that drove Sunny nuts.

"Where did you hear this nonsense?" she asked.

"The hospital called me," said Jean.

"Where is Jade?"

"She's with the upstairs neighbor. Stew."

"I'm coming," said Sunny. "I'll pick her up. I'll call you back." She rested her forehead against the cool tile. "In a few minutes."

If Jean was angry--and she was, actually; incredibly so--it was at Bridget for not letting her find her a real job. Because Jean could have done it; no one in her family appreciated what power she held. She had wooed an executive away from his firm by reading a bird book that cost her $11.95. She had filled a six-figure PR job one summer day without leaving the Adirondacks. She had herself led a team that ended up recommending the new CEO of OxCon--a position that, with stock options, commanded millions of dollars. She never pretended to be surprised at her success. She had a vision. She could find previously unimagined fits between positions and people because she never saw square pegs and round holes, or even round pegs and round holes. Every element was more complex, with odd juts and indentations, yet more elastic, more vibrant, more erotic.

Bridget was not exactly at the level Jean was used to dealing with, but Jean knew lots of human resources people, had actually recommended many of them for their positions. She could have gotten Bridget anything she wanted. This despite the fact that Bridget had been without steady employment for years, despite her obvious unsuitableness for any sort of normal life. And a real job would have meant a real apartment in a real neighborhood, real day care for Jade, and, most of all, a real hospital with real doctors to take care of them both. Bridget hadn't graduated from college? She'd been in a hurry to grasp life with two fists. She'd wandered aimlessly all over the world? People who travel are more effective communicators. Her previous jobs were hard to verify? That just shows she was a real self-starter. In truth, Jean had always thought of Bridget as a person you could work around, and certainly there was use in that.

Even in high school, Jean had been able to predict the general shape of their careers. She'd often told her sisters she would end up supporting them. Their father may be struggling; their mother may be dead. But Jean had decided to be rich. "Just try not to get caught when I am competing for some particularly sensitive post," she added at one point during the Watergate hearings.

"Caught?" said Bridget, perplexed. "Caught doing what?"

"I have no idea," said Jean, "and don't tell me. It's safer that way."

Jean swept into the pale blue reception room and announced to Mary, the beautiful Vietnamese receptionist, "My sister's doctor just killed her. Who do we have on board for today? Cancel them all. Tell them the economy will only improve."

"Did something happen to Sunny?" Every part of Mary looked polished. Her straight black hair shone, her crimson nails gleamed, her sharp-collared, crisp white synthetic shirt was almost too stylish. There was no reason for her to be impressed by anyone.

"No. Bridget," said Jean abruptly. Mary had never met Sunny but was always telling Jean to say hello. Of course, Sunny had asked Mary all sorts of how-are-you questions, but they were bound to be fake; no one was that interested in someone else's receptionist.

Mary never mentioned Bridget, who had actually been in this office, in this very room. Maybe not often. But once. And she was hard to miss. At forty-two she was still "finding herself." After quitting a job with the city, she'd turned to more marginal employment--part-time waitress at a vegan restaurant, costume jeweler, occasional seamstress for experimental theater directors, New Age masseuse.

"I'm so sorry," said Mary.

"You have nothing to worry about," said Jean grimly. "But somebody else does."

The last time Jean had gone to Bridget's apartment on 7th Street was years before, not a memory she liked to relive. The only person who hadn't asked her for money on the way was a young fellow in jeans and a priest's collar, who had tried to give her clean needles out of the back of a brown van. It was terrifically embarrassing. "I'm just visiting my sister" sounded like every stupid lie she had ever told. What would she, an obviously successful person getting out of a company cab, be doing with a sister down there? Even Bridget herself wasn't a junkie, although it was hard to think of any other excuse for her continuing embrace of poverty. The priest had tried to warn Jean about HIV as if she'd never watched any television. She had never gone back.

In fact, Jean hadn't seen Bridget for months, and the last time they'd met it was by accident, on the Lexington Avenue bus. Jade had been hanging off Bridget's chest in one of those rampant Dresden blue pouches, definitely a Sunny hand-me-down. Where had they been heading to? Had Bridget even said? Jean tried to reconstruct the conversation. Bridget had no small talk. Sports, politics, the weather--no normal subject would do for Bridget. When Jean had asked after the baby, Bridget had replied by looking down at the top of the little head with its funny swirl of hair and saying, "Russians still think that cold air makes you sick." She had always spoken in irrelevancies. Jean may have tried to bring up Sunny, although Bridget tended to willfully misunderstand Jean's devastating remarks about Sunny's dependence on men and her move to the suburbs--both topics she should have warmed to. Ah, another memory returned.

Bridget had been stylishly, if cheaply, dressed in short squarish metallic-looking bell-bottoms and a zigzagged knit jersey top--the same sorts of clothes that she'd left all over her floor twenty-five years ago. From the straw basket she was using as a diaper bag she took a silver plastic clutch purse (empty, no doubt). A single black vinyl daisy protruded over the snap. While the doors pumped and hissed, she waved this purse as if to toss it away but instead said, "Recognize this?"

"Isn't that mine?" asked Jean.

Bridget laughed. "I found it in the attic," she said, meaning at their father's house out in Paw Valley. It was as if she had circled all the way around to the beginning of her life just in time to end it.


From the Hardcover edition.
Jacqueline Carey|Author Q&A

About Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey - The Crossley Baby
Jacqueline Carey’s previous books include Good Gossip, part of which appeared in The New Yorker, and The Crossley Baby, which garnered Carey a Guggenheim Fellowship. She used to write a mystery column for Salon.com. Carey lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, the writer Ian Frazier, and their two children.

Author Q&A

A CONVERSATION WITH JACQUELINE CAREY

DEIRDRE MCNAMER is the author of the novels Rima in the Weeds, One Sweet Quarrel, and My Russian, which is a Ballantine Reader’s Circle book. She lives in Missoula, Montana, where Jacqueline Carey lived for four years in the late nineties. The two have been friends for
many years.

Deirdre McNamer: I know I’m supposed to ask the questions and you’re supposed to do most of the talking, but I feel I must jump in at the outset and tell readers something about our longstanding
conversational arrangement.

Jacqueline Carey: Jump away.

DM: For at least a dozen years now, Jacqueline (I call her “Jay”) Carey and I have spoken on the telephone for an hour or so at a set time each week. We refer to it as “meeting at the Phone Bar,”
although sometimes it is the Phone Cafe. Or the Juice Bar. Sometimes we’ve met at the Phone Bar when I’ve been in Montana and Jay has been living in Manhattan, Brooklyn or, most recently,
Montclair. We also met there when she lived in Missoula, four blocks from my house.

JC: Because neither of our homes had a jukebox.

DM: But you always complain about the jukebox!

JC: Not as much as I do about the noisy underage clientele on my end.

DM: Still, I thought we might conduct this conversation at the Phone Bar because we’re used to the place and tend to do a lot of our mutual mulling there. We’ll stick to the topic at hand. Invite
interested company. Ignore the distractions.

JC: Practice a certain restraint.

DM: Those sisters in The Crossley Baby. Let’s begin with them. Because Bridget is absent from the novel, except in retrospect, we find ourselves wondering most about the differences between careerist Jean and stay-at-home Sunny. Whom do you identify with more?

JC: I know this is going to sound cowardly, but I have to say I identify with both. When I was writing from Jean’s point of view, for instance, I wasn’t secretly rooting for Sunny. I was thinking, “That Sunny, she thinks she can get away with anything.” To keep myself true to each voice, I would work on a number of Sunny’s chapters all in a row and then a number of Jean’s. When I originally conceived of the book, I identified a bit more with Sunny. That is, I thought of arguments for Jean’s side without really feeling them. But once I actually started to write, I found the Jean chapters more fun, and my loyalties became entangled on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. I always
found it easy to look through one sister’s eyes and see what was wrong with the other.

DM: Which sister do your friends identify with?

JC: I was surprised at the great variety in my friends’ responses. Some identify with Sunny because she is, at least on the surface, nicer, more pliant, more generous. Others recoil from her because of her passivity or the way she uses men. Some career women identify with Jean somewhat ruefully, recognizing her greater anxiety or her self-justifications. Others, just as
jobs, dismiss her for her single-mindedness and her ambition, saying, “I just don’t get people like that.” I’ve been thrilled at how different the reactions are. They are just as complex as I hope the book is. Even better has been how very emotional the responses have been. People really care about these characters and have vociferous opinions about them. But I don’t think I know who you identify with.

DM: Neither. For me, it’s baby Jade, all the way. She’s got all her options before her, and in a certain deluded state of mind, I like to think I do, too. But I did, I admit, identify very much with Sunny at one point. She is watching her husband, Leon, being interviewed on television about his real estate projects in Harlem, and she feels, at that moment, that she has the best of two worlds: access to the realm of consequence and physical proximity to her child. It seems to me that many of us, parents or not, want a realm of consequence and some sort of pivotal, warm relationship with another human, pure and simple. Do you think it’s possible that this is, finally, what Jean wants, too?

JC: Jean wants more than access to a realm of consequence; she wants to tell people what to do there. But I do think women on different sides of this question might be forgetting how much they have in common. And readers can lose sight of the ways in which Jean and Sunny are, finally, like each other. Both sisters do what they have to do with great energy and enthusiasm. They don’t whine; they just keep going; they’re both great company. Their marriages are very different, but they’re basically successful. And the sisters get more like each other in other ways, for better or worse, as the book progresses.

DM: Where did you get the idea for this novel?

JC: I’ve long been fascinated with the bitter feuds that split some Irish and Irish-American families apart—feuds that often last decades. My own father, for instance, did not meet one of his uncles
until the older man was close to eighty, even though they’d both lived near Boston for a good part of their lives. It was hard for me to imagine what could cause such unrelenting enmity. Then I had my first child, and overnight questions of time and money, career and family responsibilities became unbearably fraught. At last there was something I could imagine fighting over—fiercely and at length.

DM: I think rage can be wonderful fuel for a novel. And I’ll step out on a limb and say rage of a sort might be what makes The Crossley Baby feel . . . well, the only word I have for it is . . . large. Are you enraged about anything?

JC: You name it. The gap between the fabulously rich and the rest of us is mind-boggling. The only thing worse is how most Americans accept it. But, really, I couldn’t possibly list all the things I’m
enraged about. A peaceful, contented person wouldn’t write fiction. It’s simply too hard. I aimed for a large scale in the book by including characters from all sorts of different economic classes and ethnicities—perfect mouthpieces for rage, I guess, as long as you can see everyone’s point of view. The conflict comes built in.

DM: The tone you take in talking about big topics like race, class, suffering, and social inequality is witty, lithe, even disarming. Yet you never sound dismissive. How do you manage that? Are there other writers you admire who do something similar? Or who have had some other kind of influence on you?

JC: Big topics are big only because they are important to lots of individuals. Once you get to the personal level you can see all the funny little quirks behind these abstract ideas. Philip Roth is hilarious about social questions. It may be hard to see his influence in my novels, but I admire him a great deal, and certain of his scenes often come to mind as I work. I love the Zuckerman trilogy.
The two authors who probably had the greatest effect on The Crossley Baby, though, were Leo Tolstoy and Agatha Christie. I reread both obsessively while I was writing the novel. They may
seem absurdly different, but I very consciously imitated certain things they have in common. Chapters are usually scenes with individual shapes and payoffs. Every moment is grounded in the
physical world. If a character is getting key information from a book, say, you’re going to hear where she’s sitting as she’s reading it. And every sentence has to have at least two reasons to be included.On the simplest level, in an Agatha Christie, that means that everything has both a narrative purpose and a role as a potential clue.

DM: Do you try, consciously, to create characters who work against stereotypes? I mean, if stereotypes are both boring and inaccurate, as they surely are, then a writer isn’t going to want to go near one, right?

JC: Going against stereotype in a simple-minded way is usually laughable. Take the bestselling novel about a female boss who sexually harrasses her male assistant. That to me sounds more like a male fantasy than anything that would happen in real life. Okay, maybe it happened once in the history of the world. But some things are uninteresting precisely because of their singularity.
On the other hand, no one is merely a sum of probabilities. A person who looks like a certain type can display amazing twists. For instance, the only person I knew who came to the defense of
O.J. Simpson was white. He’d played football in college, and obviously that meant far more in this case than the color of his skin. I try to make my characters both believable and surprising. According to the polls, stay-at-home mothers tend to be more conservative than career women. Tilting the lens slightly made more sense to me, though. It seemed to open things up a bit. I could
have gone further and had both Leon and Geoffrey quit their jobs to devote themselves to the raising of children. But I’m not interested in fantasy. Jean especially makes all sorts of pronouncements about types of people only to acknowledge some kicker in the end. Like when
she’s sitting in the bar, hiding from her prospective in-laws, and she thinks, Jews don’t drink alcohol—except for the ones she knew.

DM: Although the research in your novel is not intrusive, I know you did plenty of it. You write so clearly and engagingly about the nuances of real estate transactions, for instance. How did you get so interested in, and knowledgeable about, that whole realm? And how did you manage to make me and a whole slew of others interested, too?

JC: I read all sorts of stuff about real estate, executive recruiters, laparoscopic surgery, and adoption procedures. But in some ways interviews were even more important. It was from them that I got a real feeling for the emotions behind the facts. I don’t think it’s too hard to interest readers in real estate, say, as long as you stick to the human ramifications. What defines you more than your home? A house or a co-op is most people’s biggest investment. Leon just works on a bigger scale. When I was trying to decide on a way that a character could lose a lot of money, I remembered reading in the New York Times about a woman who had transformed a section of East Harlem real estate in the eighties. I was living in Montana then, so I flew to New York to see her, and she kindly spent two mornings with me, reminiscing. She was even more extraordinary than the articles had led me to believe: brave, persistent, far-sighted, and
generous-spirited. I was surprised at how much time she and lots of other people spent talking to me. After doing the research, you have to live with it a while, so that it sort of gets under your skin. You have to know lots more than you use on the page. Readers assume that you can write most convincingly about something you’ve experienced yourself, and there is some truth to that. But research that you’ve carried around in the back of your brain, half-forgotten, as if it were simply
another part of your life, works just as well. Better, since it can break you out of your little world.

DM: Another sort of research is a lot less formal and basically involves a sort of writerly observation of the circumstances of your own life. You have two children, a girl and a boy. And you are a writer married to a writer. How have those conditions influenced the way you write, and what you find yourself wanting to write about?

JC: My career and my children have become entwined in my mind because I had my first success as a writer not long before I had my first child. In fact, I sold my first book when I was pregnant and
so sick I was afraid to leave the house. It’s easy to see children as a threat to your work, because of the demands on time and attention. But children can shake you out of yourself, make you think
more deeply and widely. In that way they can be a boost. My experience has been similar, oddly, to both Jean’s and Sunny’s. Statistically speaking, I am a mother who works parttime, but it is hard to think of something as all-consuming as writing as “part-time.” I brood as much over my work as Jean does, if not more so. And since I’m usually at home and available, at least to some extent, I can be as aware of my kids as Sunny is. Well, almost as much. I draw the line sooner than she does. There are too many parents prowling the halls of the schools these days, anyway. But here I am talking only about my own life. I purposely kept both my children out of The Crossley Baby. They didn’t get their choice of mothers, so I give them a free pass. I figure anyone else
is fair game, though. I’m amazed, really, at the stuff people tell me, people who are perfectly well aware of how freely I borrow from others. My husband (Ian Frazier) has influenced my work mostly as an example. I can see firsthand how incredibly hard a successful writer must work and how courageous and honest he must be.

DM: Would you have written this book if you were still living in Montana?

JC: Don’t forget that I was living across the park from you when I started the book. My husband says I do my best work in Montana, but that’s probably because he’s always dragging me out
there. It’s true that it’s easier to see what makes a place itself when you’re at a distance from it. By that logic, there’s no better place to write about New York City than Montana, which always
manages to feel farther away than anywhere else. But I’m glad I also wrote part of the book back east, because there are always details that you forget when you’re not living with them.

DM: Why is Jean a practicing Catholic?

JC: Well, why not? She grew up Catholic. She always defined herself as a tough Irish-American girl. She’s very tribal. Catholicism is a tough religion, so she would admire it and feel at home with it. She feels its heft. She may look with a skeptical eye upon certain aspects of the mass and her fellow worshippers, but she’s no rebel. She likes the church’s rules, even if she doesn’t follow them all. You may remember that during the mass she dismisses Sunny’s criticism of the church as immature and literal-minded. Jean may be more open to the central mystery of Catholicism than many. Temperamentally she’s not suited to any other sort of Christianity, as she’s much more likely to find a spiritual dimension through ritual—through historically developed structure—than through personal enlightenment or any line of reasoning. For people like you and me and Jean, it’s Catholicism or nothing. And Jean couldn’t countenance nothing. But she’s Jean, so anything she’d say about the subject would be flip.

DM: Do you think mothers should work outside the home?

JC: As much as they can. But the important thing to remember is that most women do not have the choice. For economic reasons they have to work.

DM: I happen to know that you clip stories from the newspaper that don’t make it to the front page. What are you clipping now?

JC: My new book is about the wife of a white-collar criminal, and you couldn’t pick a better time to find relevant articles. Lately I’ve been taken with the monetary scale of the various frauds—who,
in which position, got what. Some of the numbers are incomprehensible, they are so high. I also always clip articles on outrages that seem to be particularly characteristic of a time. Recently it was the conviction of a mother in Meriden, Connecticut, whose son hanged himself in his closet. Although he had been bullied at school, the jury decided the hanging was her fault because her house was such a mess. This was a woman who had to work sixty hours a week, mostly at
WalMart, to support her family.

DM: How much money is enough?

JC: In my new novel, a young corporate striver says to his boss’s wife, “You have enough money so that you can tell everyone to go to hell.” The boss’s wife laughs and says, “I wonder how
much that would be.”

DM: There are moments of piercing tenderness in The Crossley Baby, and they are often attached to the most ordinary physical things. Just one example: Sunny, lying in utter contentment next to Leon, listens to the radiator “snuffing and snorting and stinking happily of burning dust.” Are you trying to suggest that our best moments may have nothing to do with what we want?

JC: I think we are all very lucky that they do not. Sunny is not exactly lying in utter contentment at that point, as her life is falling apart around her. But she does have a gift for appreciating the pleasure to be found in the stink of burning dust that I for one envy. It brings to mind Brecht’s definition of happiness: “comfortable shoes.”

DM: Comfortable shoes—and a session at the Phone Bar.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Praise

Praise

“Slyly seductive . . . Completely satisfying.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“This is a funny, brilliant, generous book by a writer with a perfect ear and fierce imagination. It reminds you of why you ever started reading fiction in the first place. It was in hopes of finding a book that seizes your attention as this one does.”
—GARRISON KEILLOR

“Jacqueline Carey, writing as she does about love, is a truly wonderful writer. . . . The Crossley Baby is the new addition to a growing and important body of work.”
—JAMAICA KINCAID

“Carey’s portrait of modern ‘superwomen’ is both poignant and precise. . . . [Her] wit radiates throughout this contemporary comedic saga of sibling rivalry run amok.”
Booklist

“EXTREMELY FUNNY AND ODDLY AFFECTING . . . It’s as if Carey had set herself the task of taking utterly ordinary subjects and making them far more inventive and stylish than a reader dared hope. . . . [A] novel so pleasurable . . . [we] find ourselves having epiphanies right alongside [the characters].”
The New York Times Book Review

“The witty writing is clear and unpretentious, and love and money are examined from a variety of viewpoints; things are seldom as simple as they seem. . . . Readers have complete access to the thoughts and feelings of both sisters, who are fully imagined.”
Library Journal

“[A] wry, quirky novel . . . [Carey is] an engaging and often funny writer. . . . Her sharp descriptions of the sisters’ various milieus give the novel its piquancy.”
Publishers Weekly

“Accomplished and insightful . . . Carey makes each segment engaging.”
Kirkus Reviews



From the Trade Paperback edition.

  • The Crossley Baby by Jacqueline Carey
  • December 10, 2008
  • Fiction - Literary
  • Ballantine Books
  • $9.99
  • 9780307480637

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