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The Life Before Her Eyes [Paperback]

Laura Kasischke
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 31 2002
Diana stands before the mirror preening with her best friend, Maureen. Suddenly, a classmate enters holding a gun, and Diana sees her life dance before her eyes. In a moment the future she was just imagining--a doting wife and mother at the age of forty--is sealed by a horrific decision she is forced to make. In prose infused with the dramatically feminine sensuality of spring, we experience seventeen-year-old Diana's uncertain steps into womanhood--her awkward, heated forays into sex; her fresh, fragile construction of an identity. Together with the sights and sounds of renewal, we experience the tasks of Diana's adulthood: protecting her beloved daughter and holding onto her successful husband.
An acclaimed writer and poet, Laura Kasischke has crafted a consciousness that encompasses the truth of a teenager's world and the profound transformation of that world at midlife. Resonant and deeply stirring, The Life Before Her Eyes finds piercing beauty in the midst of a nightmare from long ago that echoes like a dirge beneath each new spring.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

This third novel by Michigan author Kasischke (Suspicious River) opens with a shocking scene from a Columbine-like school massacre. Diana and her best friend are confronted by a schoolmate killer, but only Diana is spared. Fast-forward 20 years: Diana, now middle-aged and still beautiful, is a housewife and artist living in the same idyllic university town with a handsome professor-husband and a young daughter. She has seemingly repressed her memory of the event as well as her survivor's guilt, but her perfect world and her grip on reality are both starting to crack. These scenes are imbued with that sense of eerie apprehension found in a good horror flick. Woven through the book is a flashback narrative of Diana's sunny but empty-headed adolescent days. The novel plays teenage Diana's youthful illusions of immortality and beauty against the shifting, uneasy reality of middle age. Kasischke, also a published poet, writes prose that is dreamy and lyrical. This is one book you won't want to put down. Highly recommended for all popular fiction collections.
- Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Disturbing fiction (Suspicious River 1996, and White Bird in a Blizzard, 1999) is fast becoming prizewinning poet Kasischke's hallmark. Her third novel opens with a haunting scene set in the girls' washroom of a high school. Diana is goofing in front of the mirror with her best friend, Maureen, "when they hear the first dot-dot-dot of automatic gunfire. It sounds phony and far away." They are eventually confronted by the gunman, a fellow classmate whom "they'd never even really noticed." He asks them a terrible question, "Which one of you girls should I kill?" Kasischke then juxtaposes scenes from 17-year-old Diana's life with scenes from her apparent future as a 40-year-old wife and mother. In the final chapter, however, the author ambushes the reader with a shocking revelation about Diana's fate. Whether the novel is viewed as a cheap narrative trick (there will be plenty of readers crying foul) or an imaginative exploration, there's no denying that Kasischke is a fearless writer. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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IT WAS ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY IN A PERFECT LIFE: June again, and all the brilliance that came with it. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost amazing Feb. 28 2004
By Meg
This is the type of book that completely hinges on the last 30 pages. So many odd things happened throughout the book, I was dying for a great ending that would wrap up the story and give an explanation for all the the crazy happenings. However, the ending never came. I was left to image for myself why Diana acted the way she did... and for the life of me, I couldn't seem to figure out why. The reader is shown so many of Diana's thoughts it sometimes seems as though we are intruding on her fractured mind. Diana's mind is so odd... I couldn't help but wondering if this book was going to end up with Diana in a psych ward.
In conclusion, this is a beautifully written book that was incredibly intruiging, but very unsatisfying.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concept, but often hard to follow Feb. 14 2004
Honestly, this book is about a 3 and 1/2 stars. Again, a book with a great concept- posing the question- who wants to die? Would you offer to take the place for your friend?
The book held my interest for the most part, however the frequent changes between when Diana was young & when she's a housewife, are often hard to follow. There's some sequences that don't seem to belong to either- they're like dreams. And they're never really explained. This book is like you're in one big dream- with a lot of poetry & prose.
To some degree I enjoyed the flowery writing and the strangeness of the dreams. However, after a while, it got very frustrating and I just wanted to know what was REAL and what was not. Also- as she's describing the younger years between Diana & Maureen, she never uses names, it's just "the girl" or "the friend"-- thank god sometimes she'll say "the blonde"- then you know it's Diana. Often I found myself not sure of who was who. And frankly, being an avid reader- if it confused me, I think it will confuse most people.
I guess I'd recommend this book with caution. Nothing is cut & dry, it's pretty much all up to you to figure out what's going on and what the ending means. I was really hoping there would be more of an explanation at the end or a study guide, comment from the author, but there wasn't any of that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and haunting story... Jan. 22 2003
I was totally blown away by this book! My local book club chose The Life Before Her Eyes for our monthly selection, and I can't wait to discuss it with everyone. The writing was pure poetry, and the story captivated me from the very beginning. And the ending was one that I did not expect.
The Life Before Her Eyes begins with two best friends, Diana and Maureen, as they are primping in the girls' restroom at their high school. Suddenly, one of their classmates comes in and points a loaded gun straight at them. "Which one of you should I kill?" he asks....
At that point, the story takes off around 25 years into the future. Diana is a happily married artist and mother of 8-year-old Emma. She is the typical minivan-driving soccer mom. Everything is going well, but then there begins these subtle changes -- changes almost of a ghostly nature that impact Diana's life in terrifying ways. And interspersed between the paragraphs of Diana's future are excerpts from Diana's past with her friend, Maureen, before the shooting.
I was completely mesmerized with this book. I felt that something was building up, some sort of surprise or twist to the story, but I could quite figure out what it would be. And by novel's end, I was so out of breath with the anticipation! Laura Kasischke has written an amazing novel. She has a great gift of storytelling that is unshakeable. I loved every minute and every word, and I look forward to reading more by this author.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three and a Half Stars Jan. 2 2003
By A Customer
I started this book over my morning coffee, and the first chapter was so compelling I had to tear myself away to head to work. It was therefore a bit of a letdown to return to it that evening, as much of the rest of it consists of rather tedious descriptions of the minutiae of a middle aged housewife's suburban life. Some of the metaphors and descriptions are lovely (I'd like to read some of the author's poetry; she certainly has a gift for language), but they do little to move the plot along. The flashbacks to Diana and Maureen's high school years were interesting, but somewhat confusing because the teens are never referred to by name ("one girl says to the other...") - I'm not even entirely sure which one finally snagged Nate Witt! Because I had such difficulty telling the girls apart, I didn't feel that I got to know either of them over the course of the story, and that was disappointing.
The slow pace picks up further on with the bizarre events that begin to disrupt Diana's middle aged life, such as the reappearance of Timmy the cat and the mysteriously altered story young Emma writes for school. Other, more subtle hints are dropped here and there, so you do eventually guess what is happening. Still, the final pages are quite powerful and well worth sticking with the novel through it's slower moments. A highly original story that's lingered in my thoughts ever since I closed the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Emotional Read Oct. 29 2002
By A Customer
I read this book in 2 days. I was mezmorized by it, depressed by it, confused by it... the list could go on. The lyric tone of the book was haunting and sad. Kasischke keeps your mind uncomfortably alert, forcing you to try and make sense of the truth of the story she is telling and not telling. She tickles you with small pieces that seem not to fit and force you to question every sentence you read. I was particulary aware after reading the book of the formatting that occurred between the two voices. As the voices switch back and forth in the book I noticed that the opening sentences of Diana the 40yr old were all capped, as if shouting at you - or at the younger Diana screaming for her or us to listen. The opening sentences of Diana the girl were lower cased and italicized, as if sluggish and dreamlike and not until the end of the book do you understand. Kasischke skillfully crafts the quickening meter of the book as the voices seem to tumble over each other racing toward the end, racing to the truth. This book is a good exercise for those readers who are looking for something different, something to wake up their reading skills. I am anxious to read my next book to see how this experience challenges and changes my next.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting premise--that is never realized
The story begins with an interesting question: if you were forced to choose between saving your own life or sacrificing yourself for your best friend, what would you do? Read more
Published on June 27 2004 by J. Walsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless
My book club chose this book for the month. I will readily admit that the reason I didn't like this book is due to my own stubborness. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2003 by Monica ~Clay Aiken and Buffy Fanatic
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best books...EVER...
I started this book one afternoon never having heard of Laura Kasischke. I found it in our local library. From the moment I opened it I could not put it down. Read more
Published on July 22 2003 by S. L Yany
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Unexpected
A carefully written and timely story about a woman who was involved in a school shooting during her senior year, _The Life Before Her Eyes_ was both a quick read and difficult to... Read more
Published on July 14 2003 by Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel
2.0 out of 5 stars Wondering when we would get to the explanation
I was extremely excited to start this book. I am extremely glad that I am done with it. I still don't really know what the point of the story was or really what I read. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by Trina Kroll
4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down
What a disturbing and compelling book. I felt like I was caught up in a nightmare. The two stories told simultaneously added to the dream-like quality of the book. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2003 by Cathe
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW
I read this book after I read the review in the New York times. I won't get into the plot here as others already have. Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Favorite
The prose of this book was so lyrical I found myself reading some pages twice just too enjoy the language. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2002 by S. L Yany
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