Cover image for Synonym for love
Synonym for love
Publication Information:
San Francisco : Mercury House, c1995.
Physical Description:
245 p. ; 22 cm.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Notes
Book MOORE 1 .SOURCE. 6-95 I-Jun

On Order



Matty Grover has been running all her life. Something drives her to search for an understanding of her family's past, pushes her to define her future. She is searching for love, or something like it - but love has no synonym. Her travels take her from her small hometown in rural Virginia, where the racial tensions of the 1960s are rising to the surface, to the adobe homes, scorpions, and flash floods of the Arizona desert. Alison Moore's debut novel examines the human struggle between the need to belong and the longing to escape.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In short-story writer Moore's (Small Spaces Between Emergencies) first novel, an ungainly narrative structure is more than made up for by striking imagery, passages of dense, passionate writing and scenes of gut-wrenching emotion. In the mid-1970s, young photographer and compulsive wanderer Matty Grover leaves her latest home to spend the summer house-sitting in the Mojave desert. There she forges an edgy friendship with her only neighbor, the artist Della Wolff, a fiercely independent older woman prone to such utterances as ``Family gets in the way. I got rid of mine.'' Though providing material for the novel's satisfying closing scenes, however, the women's relationship isn't the story's core; instead, it acts as a somewhat awkward framework for Matty's painful recollections of her adolescence in the 1960s. Following an emotional logic rather than a strict chronology, Matty faces‘possibly for the first time ever‘memories of her mother's death and her subsequent abandonment by her father. In addition, she confronts her confusing, often anguished, sexual coming of age. Though common characters and themes link these vivid excursions into Matty's past, each‘like a short story‘could have stood alone; making this an uneasy hybrid of a short-story collection and a novel, albeit a beautifully written novel that will only enhance Moore's reputation. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

A complex and unsentimental portrait of a young woman confronting the searingly painful memories that constitute her identity--in a first novel from storywriter Moore (Small Spaces Between Emergencies, 1992). Narrator-photographer Matty Grover is spending the summer in the Arizona desert with only a neighbor--fiercely free-spirited, antisocial sculptor Della Wolff--for occasional company. In the solitude, memories resurface. Matty recalls her mother's death from cancer when she was in eighth grade. And how when her mother died, her father cracked. He summoned Jack, a grown son from an earlier marriage (of which Matty was unaware), then sneaked out of the house and away from their small Virginia town. Jack stuck around for a while; Matty, in the quiet but desperate throes of mourning, developed a crush on him. But he had business obligations in Arizona, so Matty was shunted off to board with an aging church organist. Later, a relationship with Ben, an epileptic and piano virtuoso, offered attachment but not consolation. So she bought a bus ticket and went, uninvited, to Arizona to move in with Jack, who was laconically kind but preoccupied with his own love affair. After even more troubling discoveries about her father, Matty shoved off, on her own, for California. Poignant moments abound here: of watching from a window while her family's possessions are sold at a yard sale, of arriving at her father's deathbed 20 minutes too late, of running away from home while her mother was in the hospital, of being raped. Yet this is by no means an all-gloomy ride. Matty always has an eye for beauty amid horror and an ability (compulsion?) to keep moving. Her deeply felt summer-long requiem paves the way for artistic--and possibly even psychic--freedom. A first-novelist's surefooted and affecting examination of abandonment's scars.

Booklist Review

This beautifully written debut novel tells the story of a woman searching for clues in her family history that might explain her own perpetually nomadic existence. Matty Grove, the book's narrator, has been on the run most of her life. While spending the summer at an isolated desert home, she reflects on the history of her life and tells the tale of her itinerant family. From the time of her mother's death (when Matty was 16) and her father's ensuing disappearance, she has been on an endless journey. Along the way, she learns some bizarre family secrets, meets an unknown older brother, and comes to the stark realization that she is entirely alone in the world. As Matty probes the murky waters of her family's past, searching for love, acceptance, and clues to her own identity, she is finally able to face her family's inability to live up to her needs without being crushed by her own longing. An excellent novel that clearly reveals what we are to each other and applauds the strength and capacity for renewal of the human spirit. --Kathleen Hughes