PERSONAL: Born in Chicago, IL. Education: Studied in Munich, Germany, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hobbies and other interests: Volunteering as a CFO for a Haitian rural hospital.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Shoemaker & Hoard, 3704 Macomb St. NW, Ste. 4, Washington, DC 20016. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Educator and writer. Has worked as a broadcast journalist and playwright in Germany, as an international business consultant, and on the faculties of several universities in Europe and the United States; currently on the faculty at Emerson College.
Out after Dark (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1993.
Fall (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1996.
Belong to Me (short stories), Random House (New York, NY), 1998.
Broken Ground (novel), Shoemaker & Hoard (Washington, DC), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including American Scholar, Ascent, Kenyon Review, Story Quarterly, Zoetrope, American Voice, Boston Globe, and the Anchor Essays Annual: Best of 1997. Has worked as a book reviewer for the Los Angeles Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Kai Maristed is an acclaimed novelist and short-story writer who is known for writing fiction that often features horses. She began her literary career in 1993 with Out after Dark, which concerns young siblings whose parents die while hiking in the German Alps. The children are soon placed in an orphanage, from which they are eventually retrieved by a deranged aunt who is a violent alcoholic. Towing the children across Europe and the United States, she eventually settles in a Chicago tenement to heap abuse on them. The children eventually escape their aunt's clutches. But the aunt is eventually killed, and one of the children is charged with her murder while the other searches for the truth. Writing in the Library Journal, M. J. Simmons commented that the novel's "lack of answers leaves the reader uninvolved." But a Publishers Weekly contributor called the book an "intriguing, deeply felt first novel."
In her next novel, Fall, Maristed sets the scene at an equestrian show jumping contest. The novel's protagonist, Lex Healey, is a middle-aged security guard on the junior circuit. Lex enters into a love affair with edgy Erica Hablicht, a married horse trainer. Soon the couple are being blackmailed by a disgruntled former rider, and show horses are turning up dead. Writing in the Library Journal, Ann H. Fisher called the book "plodding fare." Los Angeles Times Book Review critic George Jones-Davis similarly contended that the "horse murder plot comes to a rather hackneyed conclusion" but added that Maristed resolves the love affair "in a way that is subtle, sweet, mysterious, and feels right."
The tales in Maristed's collection Belong to Me also focus on what a Kirkus Reviews contributor called "American horse cultures." Among the stories are "Barn Swallows," in which siblings meet with tragedy while breeding and showing horses, and "If Wishes Were Horses, My Love," about a racetrack regular undone by a horse's sudden injury. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "haunting, sad, indelible collection."
Maristed's more recent novel Broken Ground tells the story of Kaethe Shalk, who marries into a declining family of the German aristocracy. Later divorced from her husband, Count Achim von Thall, she hears from him that their daughter has disappeared. Shalk heads for Berlin to find her daughter and think about her life, including her involvement with her communist American father and the politics of East and West Berlin. Writing in Booklist, Michael Spinella commented, "The prose is stupendous as Maristed's entangled layers of plot allow a look at modern Berlin through the eyes of its turbulent past." Library Journal contributor Maureen Neville called the novel a "compelling portrait of a person whose life has been swept up in both the personal and the political realities of the Cold War."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2003, Michael Spinella, review of Broken Ground, p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1993, review of Out after Dark, p. 1022; July 1, 1998, review of Belong to Me, p. 919; August 15, 2003, review of Broken Ground, p. 1039.
Library Journal, September 1, 1993, M. J. Simmons, review of Out after Dark, p. 222; May 1, 1996, Ann H. Fisher, review of Fall, p. 132; October 15, 2003, Maureen Neville, review of Broken Ground, p. 99; April 1, 2004, Rochelle Ratner, review of Broken Ground, p. 136.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 1, 1996, Georgia Jones-Davis, review of Fall, p. 3.
New York Times, July 28, 1996, Barbara Quick, review of Fall.
Publishers Weekly, August 30, 1993, review of Out after Dark, p. 77; November 9, 1998, review of Belong to Me, p. 54; September 8, 2003, review of Broken Ground, p. 13.
Kai Maristed Home Page, hkttp://www.kaimaristed.com (February 26, 2005).