Corey, Deborah Joy 1958-
COREY, Deborah Joy 1958-
PERSONAL: Born 1958, in Temperance Vale, New Brunswick, Canada; married Bill Zildjian (in business), 1983; children: Georgia, Phoebe.
ADDRESSES: Home—Castine, ME. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer. Worked in modeling and promotion for several years in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, c. late 1970s and early 1980s; freelance writer, 1983—.
AWARDS, HONORS: SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award, 1994, for Losing Eddie.
Losing Eddie (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Carrboro, NC), 1993.
The Skating Pond (novel), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Carolina Quarterly, Ploughshares, Image, Grain, and Crescent Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Canadian author Deborah Joy Corey was born in Temperance Vale, New Brunswick, in 1958. Coming from a family of seven children and little opportunity, Corey left home when she was seventeen to attempt a modeling career in New York City. Although Corey was eventually successful, it was not in New York, but mostly in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. After seven years in the business, however, she came down with rheumatic fever and mononucleosis. On a trip home to Temperance Vale to recover, Corey met Bill Zildjian of the Zildjian cymbal-manufacturing family, and the two eventually married. Following the wedding, according to John Bemrose in Maclean's, the couple traveled in Switzerland for a year, and in an apartment they rented there Corey discovered an abandoned copy of Joyce Carol Oates's short fiction collection, The Wheel of Love. Corey told Bemrose, "I'd never read stories like that. I decided then that I wanted to write." She managed to get her short fiction accepted by magazines, and her first novel, Losing Eddie, was published in 1993. Losing Eddie went on to garner the following year's SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award.
Though the narrator of Losing Eddie remains unnamed until the end of the novel, she is Laura, a nine-year-old girl growing up in conditions similar to those of Corey's own youth. Corey, however, never suffered through the death of a sibling; the novel's title refers to the death of Laura's older brother in an alcohol-related car accident. But Eddie's death is not the only tragedy suffered by Laura's dysfunctional but loving family. Laura's brother-in-law beats her sister, her younger brother, Bucky, narrowly escapes death twice, her mother endures two periods in a sanitarium before she is able to deal with her grief over Eddie, and her father battles alcoholism following the loss of his son. The mother of one of Laura's friends dies, while another of Laura's friends commits willing incest with her brother. Nevertheless, Bemrose explained that "the overriding theme of the novel is love." He went on to assert that "Losing Eddie could well stand as a cautionary tale to anyone accustomed to talking blithely—and dismissively—of 'dysfunctional families.'"
Other critics have had complimentary things to say about Losing Eddie as well, though a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Corey has "hobbled herself here by overdoing the disasters." The reviewer did concede, however, that the novel's "freshness of language and observation mark Corey as a promising newcomer." Kate Fitzsimmons, who discussed Losing Eddie in Belles Lettres, praised Corey's book-length debut, noting that the author's "brilliant metaphoric language, coupled with her compassionate flashes of insight, elevate the story out of the gritty, unpredictable world in which her narrator lives." Bemrose concluded that Losing Eddie "is one of the most confident debuts Canadian fiction has seen in some time."
Corey's second novel, The Skating Pond, focuses on fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Johnson, whose family is wrought with tragedy. First, her mother, a talented ice-skater, is hit in the head with a hockey puck while skating on a local pond—an injury that results in her disfigurement and, ultimately, her death. When Elizabeth's father leaves to pursue an art career with his new girlfriend, Elizabeth is left to fend for herself in the frozen Maine village. She falls into the arms of a much older man named Frederick, who though tender at first, eventually leaves her, pregnant and once again on her own. Elizabeth finds comfort with a neighbor named Michael. They marry and eventually have two children together. When Frederick returns after many years, however, the young mother finds herself longing for her first love once again.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Skating Pond sensuous but overwrought and noted, "Corey's voluptuous descriptions of physical sensation carry the reader pleasantly along, but the characters' solemn pronouncements . . . grow tiresome, and it becomes difficult to overlook the improbabilities of the plot." Library Journal's Judith Kicinski, however, called the book "beautiful and harrowing." Booklist's Whitney Scott noted that The Skating Pond "resembles ice fragments, in that Corey intersperses dreams, flashbacks, and scenes set in the fictional present." Debby Waldman of People wrote, "Stories like these usually lead to salvation, but it isn't obvious that Elizabeth will get it: She follows every sensible decision with an awful one. Her complexity could easily sustain another book." Shanda Deziel of Maclean's noted, "Elizabeth stays with you after the novel is finished. She's a character that many women understand."
As an author, Corey attempts to tell those stories that are often neglected and overlooked. She told Deziel in Maclean's, "One of the things that interests me is people who choose what we perceive as a simpler life—and just how complex those lives actually are. The flashy stories are everywhere, but stories about the people I know are not always told."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Belles Lettres, summer, 1994, pp. 53, 55.
Booklist, September 15, 1993, Alice Joyce, review of Losing Eddie, p. 126; December 15, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of The Skating Pond, p. 731.
Boston Herald, January 5, 2003, Jessica Ullian, review of The Skating Pond, p. 58.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1993, pp. 951-952; November 1, 2002, review of The Skating Pond, p. 1549.
Library Journal, September 1, 1993, Dawn L. Anderson, review of Losing Eddie, p. 220; January, 2003, Judith Kicinski, review of The Skating Pond, p. 152.
Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2003, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of The Skating Pond, p. R-15.
Maclean's, April 11, 1994, John Bemrose, review of Losing Eddie, p. 64; March 17, 2003, Shanda Deziel, review of The Skating Pond, p. 54.
New York Times Book Review, February 9, 2003, John Hartl, review of The Skating Pond, p. 24.
People, February 10, 2003, Debby Waldman, review of The Skating Pond, p. 49.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 1993, review of Losing Eddie, p. 88; December 9, 2002, review of The Skating Pond, p. 61.
School Library Journal, February, 1994, Marguerite O'Connor, review of Losing Eddie, p. 136.
Idiot's Guide.com,http://www.idiotsguide.com/ (March 18, 2004), description of The Skating Pond.
Random House of Canada Web site,http://www.randomhouse.ca/ (March 18, 2004), review of The Skating Pond.
Reading Group Guides,http://www.readinggroupguides.com/ (March 18, 2004), description of The Skating Pond.*