The Heart of the Matter: a Review of Moral Disorder


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Several years ago, members of my online writing group tuned me in to Margaret Atwood for the first time, recommending that I pick up a copy of “Cat's Eye" without delay since I'd never read it. So read it I did, and having done so, I can say that few other authors have captured my fancy quite as much as Margaret Atwood. Both a wonderful writer and storyteller, she has the enviable ability to cut deep into the heart of matters, finding and exposing emotional truths through her fiction.

Her latest book, “Moral Disorder" lives up to the bulk of her work. “Moral Disorder" is a collection of interconnected short stories. The thread of the book is a woman named Nell, whose life is laid bare on the pages of these stories. From a childhood unfulfilled in “The Art of Cooking and Serving, " to the uneasy older years of “The Bad News, " this is a book filled with texture and emotion. As a character, Nell and those around her - Tig and his boys, her troubled sister, Lillie the real estate agent - are fleshed out, becoming real people for the duration of the read.

Nell's story is an interesting one, too. Unintentionally robbed of a childhood by a mother unable to cope with the birth of her second child - a daughter of difficult temperament and troubled moods - Nell's life is a series of dramas. She becomes the family caretaker at a young age, and throughout “Moral Disorder, " the reader follows Nell in her struggle to find her place in the world, a world that has not made it easy for her. At times, the book is almost funny, but ultimately, there's a poignancy here that can't be denied.

Margaret Atwood is a master of her craft, handling her prose with a skilled hand. Though rarely bloated, her style is at times quite poetic, the language rich and rhythmic. What also always strikes me about Atwood's writing is the bounty of detail, the smells and tastes and sounds of an unfamiliar world made familiar. From city to country, Margaret Atwood not only evokes the setting perfectly within the pages of “Moral Disorder" but the flavors of its occupants: their feelings, thoughts, quirks.

At times bizarre, almost surreal, still there is a core of truth at the center of this book. And perhaps that's what makes “Moral Disorder" such a touching collection of fiction. Though Atwood takes her readers on a tour of worlds that may be strikingly unfamiliar, it's the universal truths that we can all recognize that keep these stories accessible and compelling.

For Atwood fans, and fans of short fiction in general, don't miss this book. It's a book that will stay with you for a long, long time.

Lisa is an author on http://www.Writing.Com which is a site for Poetry Contests .


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