Bellows, Nathaniel 1972-
BELLOWS, Nathaniel 1972-
Born 1972, in Boston, MA.
Writer of poetry and fiction; visual artist.
On This Day (novel), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Poetry published in periodicals and literary journals, including New York Times Book Review, New Republic, Paris Review, and Ploughshares.
Nathaniel Bellows won some notice as a poet, with verse appearing in a variety of publications, before the publication of his first novel, On This Day. The novel, which some reviewers found informed by Bellows' poetic style, deals with two young-adult siblings trying to cope with life after the deaths of their parents. Warren, the narrator, is eighteen, and his sister, Joan, is twenty when their father dies of cancer, an event followed closely by their mother's suicide. Their inheritance allows the brother and sister a measure of financial independence, but they are not ready for emotional independence. Relying primarily on each other, they are resistant and suspicious when relatives and neighbors in their small Maine town reach out to them; meanwhile, their late father's business partner schemes to cut them out of their share in the family firm, a plant nursery. The siblings also have problematic love lives; Joan's boyfriend is noncommittal, and Warren falls for a woman who once worked for his father—then discovers that she was his father's lover as well.
"Poet Bellows brings a lyrical voice to his bittersweet first novel," commented Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan, while Ploughshares critic Don Lee saw "poetic patience and eloquence" in the author's prose. Tanya Corrin, reviewing for the online publication Bookreporter, praised Bellows' style as "simple and honest" and his story as "compelling." Particularly, Corrin observed, he "demonstrates a profound grasp of the humor, hatred and intimate bond between brother and sister." Some other reviewers had similar compliments for the portrayal of the sibling relationship. For instance, Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing in the New York Times Book Review, observed that "Bellows has a warm sympathy for Warren and Joan's newfound isolation and a clear-eyed respect for the power of the bond between them," which he depicts as "deeply intimate without a hint of prurience."
Williams, though, found Warren somewhat deficient as a narrator-protagonist, explaining, "Warren lacks the charisma to carry his own story, and Bellows doesn't yet have the confident authority to make his hero's predicament sufficiently absorbing." Corrin thought the use of Warren as narrator contributed to the story's sometimes-slow pace, but she added, "We like Warren. His pain is poignant and real. We might miss this gift of intimacy with him if he were a more dynamic character or, rather, if the author was less honest about the true nature of a shell-shocked teenage introvert." A Publishers Weekly reviewer described Warren as "a believable, beguiling voice" and the storytelling as "eloquent yet down-to-earth." Overall, the reviewer noted, "Bellows brings grace and grit to this debut novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Margaret Flanagan, review of On This Day, p. 1046.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of On This Day, p. 1711.
New York Times Book Review, April 27, 2003, Mary Elizabeth Williams, "Home Alone," p. 29.
Ploughshares, spring, 2003, Don Lee, review of On This Day.
Publishers Weekly, December 9, 2002, review of On This Day, pp. 58-59.
Bookreporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (October 13, 2003), Tanya Corrin, review of On This Day.*