Dean, Margaret Lazarus 1972-
Dean, Margaret Lazarus 1972-
Born 1972. Education: Wellesley College, B.A.; University of Michigan, M.F.A.
The Time It Takes to Fall, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Also author of the blog The Time It Takes to Blog.
Margaret Lazarus Dean, author of the novel The Time It Takes to Fall, grew up fascinated with space travel and the U.S. space program. Following her parents' divorce, her father took Dean and her brother to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, nearly every Saturday. "Many of the displays seem to have worked themselves into my consciousness—Apollo capsules that had splashed down at the end of moon missions, space suits and spacewalking equipment, a piece of moon rock," recalls the author in the "Q and A" section of her home page. "I especially remember the movie The Dream Is Alive, which we probably saw a dozen times. It documents a space shuttle mission from 1984, and a lot of details have stayed with me and later made their way into the book."
The author recalls first seeing female astronaut Judith Resnik in The Dream Is Alive. Resnik was one of seven crew members who died during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in which the ship exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986. In her novel, The Time It Takes to Fall, the protagonist, Dolores Gray, idolizes Resnik. In a review of the novel on the Small Spiral Notebook Web site, contributor Julie Mollins commented that the author "weaves together an insider's story of the space-shuttle program and the life of protagonist Dolores Gray with a thread of cynicism about both adolescence and space technology." Dolores is the daughter of a technician who works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known by its acronym, NASA. As the novel's narrator, Dolores tells her story of wanting to be an astronaut even after her father loses his job at NASA. Whenever there is a launch, her father takes Dolores to witness the event, which she writes about in her space notebook. However, as a teenage girl growing to womanhood, Dolores also has other things on her mind, such as her family's difficulties following her father's layoff. When her mother leaves, Dolores goes into a downward spiral, which includes leaving old friends behind, smoking, and skipping classes. When she and her father witness the Challenger disaster, Dolores's psyche becomes even more fragile.
Dean's debut novel received widespread critical acclaim. Deborah Donovan, writing in Booklist, called The Time It Takes to Fall "thoughtful" and "an intriguing look at some previously unexplored repercussions of a historic event." David A. Berona wrote in the Library Journal that the novel includes "a harrowing depiction in the epilog of the last few minutes in the lives of the Challenger's seven astronauts." Some reviewers also noted Dean's ability to combine a family drama and a teenager's coming of age with important social issues and the science of space flight. For example, a Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the author "deftly shapes her tale, moving from the complicated social system of children … to the secretive world of parents and the lofty aspirations of those dedicated to the mystery of outer space." Emberly Nesbit, writing on the Bookslut Web site, commented: "An engaging, provoking … read, with a strong female protagonist at its center, this debut novel is a witness to the fall, from innocence surely, but more importantly from passive acceptance to an engaged struggle."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2006, Deborah Donovan, review of The Time It Takes to Fall, p. 20.
Books, July 21, 2007, Kathryn Masterson, "Yearning for Space in a Coming-of-Age Novel," review of The Time It Takes to Fall, p. 8.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of The Time It Takes to Fall, p. 1188.
Library Journal, January 1, 2007, David A. Berona, review of The Time It Takes to Fall, p. 88.
Publishers Weekly, November 13, 2006, review of The Time It Takes to Fall, p. 33.
Bookslut,http://www.bookslut.com/ (November 28, 2007), Emberly Nesbitt, review of The Time It Takes to Fall.
Margaret Lazarus Dean Home Page,http://www.margaretlazarusdean.com (November 29, 2007).
Small Spiral Notebook,http://www.smallspiralnotebook.com/ (August 23, 2007), Julie Mollins, review of The Time It Takes to Fall.