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Shut the DoorReview - Shut the Door
A Novel
by Amanda Marquit
St. Martin's Press, 2005
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Mar 18th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 11)

As I forced myself to turn the pages of Amanda Marquit's first novel Shut the Door, I speculated whether it could be read as a comedy, maybe as a satire of modern exposés of the suburban family, and I hoped that there would be some twist in the plot that would reveal a wry knowing author, maybe with a hint of The Stepford Wives.  Unfortunately, I instead resigned myself to the conclusion that this young writer has created a work similar in tone to the dreadful recent movie Thirteen.  The most interesting thing about the book is the photograph of Marquit on the inside back flap of the cover, because it makes her look like a teenage heroin-addicted hooker, and that's an unusual marketing ploy by the publisher. 

The format is simple enough.  There are four family members: parents Harry and Beatrice and their daughters Vivian, 17, and Lilliana, 16.  Each writes a page or two telling their story from their perspective, and they take turns.  Harry has gone one a business trip to Cleveland, leaving the family behind.  He is sexually frustrated because he hasn't had sex with his wife for years, and what sex they had before was very unsatisfying.  Harry starts to go out of control as he abandons his responsibilities.  Beatrice is a devoted wife whose identity comes from her role as dutiful partner and mother, but she has a crisis because nobody wants to talk to her.  She becomes increasingly out of touch with reality as she tries to hold on to her former identity.  Lilliana was raped at 13 and has since then been sexually promiscuous, freely having boys and men in her room while her parents try to ignore her activities.  Yet while she enjoys having the ability to be sexually intimidating to males, she finds that there is no emotional satisfaction in those empty relationships, so she takes to cutting herself ever more dangerously.  Her older sister Vivian is a virgin, but is tired of being considered unattractive, so she decides to change her image, going on a dramatic diet, getting new clothes, dying her hair, getting her navel pierced, and befriending the sluttiest girl she knows to become popular.  And that is basically it.  The story proceeds inexorably, determinedly, without humor or character development.  Although it is only 225 pages long, it did not end soon enough.  It could possibly have made a striking short story, but as a novel it was interminable. 

The publisher makes much of the fact that Marquit started the book when she was 14 and completed it at 16.  In the blurb on the back, author Caroline Leavitt is quoted as saying Marquit "pulls us inside the dangerous fault lines of a family about to earthquake," (and here is a warning sign: what competent writer uses "earthquake" as a verb?)  Obviously there's a market for writing by teenage girls writing about sex and self-mutilation, which the publisher is presumably hoping to capture.  The movie Thirteen, released a year or so ago, gained a great deal of press because it was co-written by a teenaged girl, and was based on her own experiences.  But that film was sensationalistic and thin in plot, having very little light to shed on the pressures on teen girls, and Shut the Door suffers from similar weaknesses.  It is no secret that young teen girls are cutting themselves and having sex, perhaps in epidemic proportions.  One only needs to turn on daytime TV talk shows to see similar stories told over and over again.  Presumably we might learn more about what is causing these problems by letting the girls themselves tell their stories, but Marquit's novel is just trite and simplistic.  Indeed, I barely found it readable and was immensely relieved to finish it. 

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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