A review of

Pinkerton’s Sister

by Peter Rushforth

Central question: What secrets have been shut away with the madwoman in the attic?
Format: 750 pp., hardcover; Size: 6" x 9"; Price: $26; Publisher: MacAdam/Cage; Editor: Anika Streitfeld; Print run: 18,000; Setting of the novel: Turn-of-the-century New York; Number of literary works referenced in novel: 143; Real event captured in the novel: the 1888 New York blizzard; Representative sentence:“Exodus XX, XXI, and XXII (all those exes in Exodus, as God marked them out for destruction with a cross, like rotten trees in a corrupted orchard) fell to earth, homicidal hailstones blackening the sky, and the piled bodies of an overwhelmed city were lost from sight and buried beneath them.

Kindergarten, Peter Rushforth’s unswerving, unsentimental first novel, came out the year I was born. I’m now reviewing his second novel.

If only more writers could be so patient. Pinkerton’s Sister, a work of rare beauty and (rarer still!) genuine wit, takes place in the mind of one Alice Pinkerton, the archetypal “madwoman in the attic” of Gothic literature, as she watches the twentieth century dawn outside her window. This should seem confining—a huge novel taking place in a single day, never leaving a single point of view, and almost never leaving a single room. But Alice’s mind is enormous. What we read is an expansive, subtle polyphony of her sensations, memories, imaginings, and most especially her readings—the plays of Shakespeare, lines and lines from other poets, and those Gothic novels that mirror her own situation.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Dan Johnson

Dan Johnson grew up in the California desert and went to school in L.A. and New York. Now he’s in New Haven, where he’s still revising his first little novel and working at the record shop. Stop in and say hi.

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