Matson, Suzanne 1959–

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Matson, Suzanne 1959–

PERSONAL: Born November 12, 1959, in Portland, OR; daughter of Carl E. (a sheet metal worker) and Kathryn R. (a secretary) Matson; married Joseph Gerard Donnellan (a lawyer), June 15, 1991; children: three sons. Education: Attended University of London, 1980; Portland State University, B.A. (high honors), 1981; University of Washington, Seattle, M.A., 1983, Ph.D., 1987.

ADDRESSES: Home—Newton, MA. Office—Department of English, Carney Hall 458, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Agent—Henry Dunow, Dunow and Carlson Literary Agency, 27 W. 20th St., Ste. 1003, New York, NY 10011. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Washington, Seattle, WA, lecturer in English, 1987–88; Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, assistant professor, 1988–94, associate professor, 1994–2002, professor of English, 2002–.

MEMBER: Associated Writing Programs, PEN New England.

AWARDS, HONORS: Young Poets Award, Poetry Northwest, 1983; Susannah McMurphy fellowship, University of Washington, 1984; Academy of American Poets Prize, 1986; Robert B. Heilman award, 1987; Massachusetts Cultural Council Fiction Writer's fellowship, 1998.


Sea Level (poems), Alice James Books (Cambridge, MA), 1990.

Durable Goods (poems), Alice James Books (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

The Hunger Moon (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

A Trick of Nature (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

The Tree-Sitter (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to anthologies, including Working Classics: Poems on Industrial Life, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1990; Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Tradition, Norton, 1993; and For a Living: Contemporary Work Poems, University of Illinois Press, 1994. Contributor of columns, articles, poems, and reviews to magazines, including Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry, Denver Quarterly, New York Times Magazine, Child, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, and Indiana Review. Seattle Review, Poetry Board editor, 1985–88, poetry editor, 1995–98.

SIDELIGHTS: Suzanne Matson is at ease with both poetry and fiction, and reviewers have found favor with her works in both genres. Reviewing the 1993 poetry collection Durable Goods, a Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "Matson's specialty is writing about strangers," the "Other" within the context of the poet's work, and went on to note that, overall, the "impression is one of intimacy, poet and reader taking a long, hard look, as if the Other were a constant mirror." According to another critic reviewing the novel A Trick of Nature for Publishers Weekly, Matson's gift is "describing the sustenance derived from family."

The Hunger Moon, Matson's first novel, illuminates the lives of three disparate female characters. Renata is a waitress who travels across country with her newborn son in flight from a boyfriend she feels would not be a good father. Eleanor, a retired judge, finds herself falling back upon memories as her downsized life becomes mired in tedium. Uniting the two women is babysitter-housekeeper June, an aspiring dancer with an eating disorder. Though of different ages and backgrounds, the women find solace in their friendship and in their nurturing of Renata's baby boy, Charlie. Library Journal contributor Robin Nesbitt wrote: "This lyrical novel of friendship and love is very readable and enjoyable." A Publishers Weekly contributor likewise commended Matson's "gifts for nuance and vivid detail" that "emerge in the complexities and richness of each woman's sensibility." Sarah Lyall, writing in the New York Times Book Review, praised the work for Matson's "crisp, clean writing, her compassionately drawn characters and her sharp eye for slyly humorous detail." To quote Lyall: The Hunger Moon "makes the resounding point that it is far better to let love in than to keep it out."

A Trick of Nature explores how one small-town family unravels in the wake of an unexpected tragedy. Football coach Greg Goodman finds himself out of a job after one of his players gets struck by lightning during a practice. His life is further complicated by the discovery that one or both of his teenaged daughters may be having sex, as well as by his own misguided pursuit of an old sweetheart and the mother of the injured player. In Booklist Kristine Huntley wrote: "Matson has written a page-turner that sheds the façade of one family's seemingly perfect existence." A Publishers Weekly contributor found the work "eloquent" in its tracing of "the subterranean discord laid bare by tragedy."

In The Tree-Sitter Matson tells the story of young Julie Price, a privileged but disenfranchised college student who falls in love with Neil, a radical environmentalist. The couple goes to Oregon to participate in protests, and Neil eventually is drawn to more violent and radical approaches to environmental activism. Julie realizes she is facing a crossroads and must decide whether to follow Neil on his dangerous path. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Thoughtfully told, this story … is surprising and honest." Maureen Neville, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "generates emotional resonance and successfully builds suspense." In a review on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, Michael Leonard added: "In languid and sensual prose, author Suzanne Matson skillfully explores the moral puzzle, the line that inevitably forms between activism and terrorism." Donna Seaman concluded in Booklist that the author "makes a vital connection between personal awakenings and … environmental and political realities."



Booklist, July, 1997, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Hunger Moon, p. 1797; April 1, 2000, Kristine Huntley, review of A Trick of Nature, p. 1435; January 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Tree-Sitter, p. 57.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2005, review of The Tree-Sitter, p. 1293.

Library Journal, July, 1997, Robin Nesbitt, review of The Hunger Moon, p. 126; January 1, 2006, Maureen Neville, review of The Tree-Sitter, p. 99.

New York Times Book Review, September 21, 1997, Sarah Lyall, "Women's Place," p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, September 20, 1993, review of Durable Goods, p. 68; June 2, 1997, review of The Hunger Moon, p. 55; March 20, 2000, review of A Trick of Nature, p. 74; December 5, 2005, review of The Tree-Sitter, p. 29.


Boston College Web site, (September 1, 2006), faculty profile of Suzanne Matson., (February 26, 2006), Amanda Heller, review of The Tree-Sitter.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (September 1, 2006), Michael Leonard, review of The Tree-Sitter.

W.W. Norton Web site, (September 1, 2001), brief profile of Suzanne Matson.