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Maria Brandt All The Words

All the Words
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Winner of the 2014 Grassic Prize: All the Words by Maria Brandt

Photography by Jasna Bogdanovska

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Maria Brandt’s novella All the Words is an artfully constructed collage of truth and memory, a wonderfully poetic story about the traumas that bind us to ourselves and each other. The simplicity of her language juxtaposed against the deceptive safety of a familiar landscape and the complications of childhood sorrow and denial produce an effect not unlike that of being on a speeding train, the same train her main character rides with her father as they struggle to confront what they can no longer avoid. Brandt is masterful at describing the paradoxical human desire to both erase and embrace the past in order to live more fully with and in spite of it. —Cathy Smith, author of The Glory Walk

The characters in Maria Brandt’s heart-wise and home-wise All the Words struggle, each in their own way, to articulate all the necessary words. For in this lyrically lush and beautifully cadenced novella about a family’s love and loss, words are, paradoxically, precious and scarce. Sentences start but sputter out; mouths go mute; memories, both allusive and elusive, tease then disappear, only to reappear as fragmented textual ghosts, italicized and erupting throughout the course of this family’s journey—a journey from trauma to understanding, and, ultimately, to a kind of acceptance. Such a story arc is easy to describe, but painstakingly difficult to render dramatically and truthfully, but Brandt pulls it off with élan and intelligence and, best of all, the instincts of a natural storyteller. Read this short novel and feel what I felt: utterly renewed. —Joseph Salvatore, author of To Assume a Pleasing Shape

In Maria Brandt’s All the Words, memory fuses with the present as a young woman journeys home to Long Island to confront the secrets and stories that haunted her transition into adolescence. Jane’s lens on the past is prismatic, splintering events into shards that she gradually and suspensefully tries to reassemble, even as the characters’ lives resist mending. Brandt’s lyrical and disorienting narrative mimics the fugue-like state of children leaving childhood, mapping anew a world they once felt at home in. –Suzanne Matson, author of The Tree-Sitter

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