Burns, Elizabeth 1959-
BURNS, Elizabeth 1959-
Born 1959; married; children: two daughters. Hobbies and other interests: Poetry.
Home—St. Louis Park, MN. Office— Metropolitan State University, Writing Center, 730 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403-1897. E-mail—[email protected].
Novel writer and poet. Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis, MN, Writing Department, community faculty member; St. David's Child Development & Family Services, St. Louis Park, MN, board member.
Tilt: Every Family Spins on Its Own Axis: A Novel, Sourcebooks (Naperville, IL), 2003.
Also author of poems.
In her novel, Tilt: Every Family Spins on Its Own Axis, Elizabeth Burns articulates the anxiety and helplessness a mother feels when she learns that her child is autistic. While the book is fiction, it reflects Burns's own experiences with her autistic daughter, Cecilia.
Bridget, the main character in Tilt, transforms from a carefree, sophisticated young New Yorker to a depressed wife and mother trying to cope with enormous personal loss. Her five-year-old daughter Maeve throws herself against a window until it shatters and must wear a weighted vest to calm her. Bridget's heart breaks at the thought of putting Maeve in a group home, a decision Burns had to make with Cecilia.
In addition to coping with Maeve's autism, Bridget suffers other losses. Her best friend and her father both die of cancer. She must move from Manhattan to Minneapolis when her new husband, Pierce, accepts a job as a college art instructor. When Pierce is diagnosed manic depressive, her life becomes too much to bear, and Bridget "tilts" toward a breakdown. She attempts suicide and is hospitalized for severe depression.
Most critics praised Tilt for being both funny and poignant. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly said it "doesn't mince words about sex, mental illness, or the exhaustion of child rearing." In the Star Tribune, reviewer Andrew Solomon described the book as "a lyrical tour de force spun out of woe, but marked with a lightness that seduces you into its difficult content."
Burns said that it took her several years to finish the book while struggling to care for her daughter, Cecilia. Burns's first editor said the book was too depressing. Burns signed with a literary agent in 1999, but the book wasn't published until 2003. "Two elements that keep this novel from dissolving into a complete pity party are Burns's witty narrator, who proves to be a delightfully amusing guide through this seemingly endless route of travail, and her memorable portrait of the autistic Maeve, whose behavior is maddening, mysterious, and fascinating," Joanne Wilkinson explained in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Tilt: Every Family Spins on Its Own Axis, p. 1046.
Kirkus Reviews January 15, 2003, review of Tilt, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, February 3, 2003, review of Tilt, p. 53.
Star Tribune,http://www.startribune.com/ (March 23, 2003), Andrew Solomon, review of Tilt.
Sun Newspaper Online,http://www.mnsun.com/ (June 6, 2003), Teri Kelsh, "St. Louis Author Shares Her World in Tilt. "*