Break­able You

Bri­an Morton

  • Review
By – October 26, 2011

In Bri­an Morton’s pre­vi­ous nov­el, A Win­dow Across the Riv­er, a cou­ple faced with an unplanned preg­nan­cy chose to abort the child, and con­se­quent­ly broke up. In his newest, Break­able You, a cou­ple faced with the same cir­cum­stance decide to bring the baby into the world. Though one might be tempt­ed to think this sit­u­a­tion would result in a sac­cha­rine, opti­mistic nov­el, one would not have read Bri­an Morton. 

Mor­ton has staked out the ter­ri­to­ry of Upper West Side New York Jew­ish intel­lec­tu­als grap­pling with their life choic­es. The real author has one of his fic­tion­al writ­ers muse, 

It was the book in which he’d worked most effec­tive­ly with­in his own lim­i­ta­tions, the book in which he’d turned his lim­i­ta­tions most suc­cess­ful­ly into virtues. In that book his tem­pera­men­tal lack of char­i­ty had been per­fect­ly suit­ed to his sub­ject and his theme. His habit­u­al cold­ness was exact­ly what that book had need­ed. Writ­ing it, he had been like a sur­geon, of whom we don’t require empa­thy but only the knowl­edge of how to cut.” 

Morton’s descrip­tion of his fic­tion­al writer, with his need to know how to cut,” can be applied to Bri­an Mor­ton as well. In the slices he carves of the lives of his char­ac­ters, with their flaws and attempts to be whole, he achieves a whole­ness, though with­out the peace of a hap­py ending.” 

Break­able You ends, telling­ly, with the word fam­i­ly.” In Morton’s pre­vi­ous nov­el, the char­ac­ters end up alone, while here despite the obsta­cles and suf­fer­ing, they attempt to knit them­selves into the flawed struc­ture that is the human fam­i­ly. The read­er has a remark­able oppor­tu­ni­ty to watch Mor­ton cre­ate this frac­tured struc­ture in Break­able You.

Beth Kissileff is in the process of fundrais­ing and writ­ing grants to devel­op a pro­gram to assist rab­bis of all denom­i­na­tions with writ­ing and pub­lish­ing books. Kissileff is a rab­binic spouse and author of the nov­el Ques­tion­ing Return as well as edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy Read­ing Gen­e­sis: Begin­ings.

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