``I was born into my mother's madness,'' observes Zoe Handke whose mother was physically and emotionally abusive to her. Zoe's father was not equipped to deal with the drama and her grandmother was ill and also the victim of her mother's rages so little Zoe was left without an advocate. At college in Minnesota, Zoe experiences episodes of hysterical blindness and deafness in reaction to the abuse. No motive is provided for her mother's mental illness but Zoe makes sense of the dysfunctional relationship by repetitively studying childhood events, reorganizing her past. Vignettes of her childhood are still, quiet and evocative. The last chapters of the book show the 40 year old Zoe righting herself, marrying and having children of her own.
Eric Larsen's prize-winning first novel, An American Memory, is about Malcolm Reiner, who married Zoe Handke. I'm going to seek it out.