IF MY BOOK: The Hoarder’s Wife, Deborah Greenhut

Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Deborah Greenhut writes about her debut novel, The Hoarder’s Wife, out now from Woodhall Press.

If The Hoarder’s Wife were a woodland scene, it would be a thicket of weeping willows and bramble bushes. There were a lot of tears and traps in the genesis of Grace and Luddy Berg’s plot. Weeping willows suck out all the groundwater and desiccate life the way the hoarding depletes a couple; the brambles would be the trips and traps in the hoard. At some point it became too dark for flowers to bloom despite the moisture leaking in everywhere. Something needed to change to let light in.

If The Hoarder’s Wife were a composer, that would be Mozart because it contains so many notes. Actually, it contains the amount required to tell the story.

If The Hoarder’s Wife were a beverage, it would be espresso due to its forward racing narrative and bitter, seductive taste. 

I take it back. If The Hoarder’s Wife were a beverage, it would be a particular cocktail, the pousse-café, served as unblended layers of various liqueurs–a drink I discovered at age three while watching a Miami bartender pour them at the Fountainbleau Hotel. The narrative layers of my book required separate strands to mimic the hoarder’s accumulation of things, and its impingement of, but not complete absorption of, his wife, Grace. While she spends her life defending from Luddy’s incursions of her boundaries, the music Grace wants to compose trails off in the fiords and arteries of Luddy’s self-soothing accumulation as they overwhelm the home. Instead of a mutually enriching blend in their lives, they remain estranged, molecules hovering and dancing in parallel, a bit like layers of that drink, carefully relying on the physics of surface tension and surface-to-volume ratios to maintain personal and physical autonomy. Love is not enough to dissolve their defenses for a merger. Unlike Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole, the notes they experience say something more like “Don’t drink me!” But we will tip that glass.

If The Hoarder’s Wife were a painting it would be of a young girl running in search of a scrunchy for her hair, which is on fire, so it would need to be made of asbestos. She would run through a fictitious museum right past Christina’s World and the Mona Lisa into the Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights desperately searching for Edouard Manet’s painting of boats on a lake while ignoring Rodin’s Thinker in favor of Bonnard’s welcoming dining rooms.

If The Hoarder’s Wife were a city, it might be Prague because of its reverence for Kafka. Mozart, too. That’s what hoarding does to a family home. 

Deborah Greenhut earned her B.A. in English from Middlebury College and a PhD from Rutgers University. Her poems and cultural reviews have appeared in print and online at www.oobr.com , medium.com , and Red Booth Review. Her way-off Broadway production of “Difficult Subjects,” was selected for the Best Plays of the Strawberry Festival, Volume 2. A multi-genre work, How I Live. With Terror, developed as an artist-in-residence at 92 Street Y/Makor, appeared in www.Zeek.net. In 2017, she received the Princemere Poetry Prize. 

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