McKenzie, Elizabeth 1958–
McKenzie, Elizabeth 1958–
PERSONAL: Born 1958.
CAREER: Editor and fiction writer. Atlantic Monthly, Boston, MA, former staff editor.
Stop That Girl: A Novel in Stories, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to books, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002, Houghton, Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002, and The Pushcart Prize XXV: Best of the Small Presses, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, TriQuarterly, Threepenny Review, and Zyzzyv.
ADAPTATIONS: Readings of McKenzie's stories have been performed at Symphony Space, New York, NY, and at Stories on Stage, Chicago, IL. Her stories have also been recorded for "Selected Shorts" on National Public Radio.
SIDELIGHTS: A novelist and former staff editor for the Atlantic Monthly, Elizabeth McKenzie is the author of Stop That Girl: A Novel in Stories. The book consists of nine individual stories, arranged in chronological order, that tell the story of Ann Ransom from the age of eight to adulthood. In the first story, the title piece of the novel, McKenzie introduces Ann, her high-strung, hypochondriac, and recently pregnant mother, Helen, and her kind, patient stepfather, a real estate agent named Roy Weeks. The intellectually curious and precocious Ann, whose favorite book is Karl Marx's Das Kapital, struggles to cope with the changes in her life after her mother's remarriage. Eager to please but careful to avoid confrontation, Ann suppresses her own needs in favor of others' wishes. At least one person, however, has confidence in her—her maternal grandmother, known as Dr. Frost, a strong-willed, self-centered, and acerbic medical professional who assures Ann that she will do great things.
As the birth of Ann's sibling approaches, Dr. Frost takes her on a frenzied trip through Europe. In the subsequent stories, all couched in terms of milestones in her life, Ann is practically kidnapped by Dr. Frost as the older woman's marriage falls apart. Ann comes to appreciate her likeable stepfather, who still has trouble communicating with his stepdaughter. The book progresses through Ann's college years and continues through her life as a mother and divorcée. As Ann nears contentment, she realizes that her life has mirrored that of her mother in unexpected and sometimes inexplicable ways. Library Journal reviewer Eleanor J. Bader called Ann "a completely likable character in a completely likable coming-of-age novel." School Library Journal reviewer Pat Bender remarked: "This novel is engaging from start to finish," and is "often humorous and sometimes poignant." Bender also noted that the book should be particularly appealing to girls of high-school age. Ann's story of her life is "often wildly funny but just as often thoughtful and sad," observed Michael Cart in Booklist. The author's "humor, Ann's touching bravado and the collection's subtle evocation of emotional undercurrents make this a poignant, incisive debut," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
"I'm not sure I'd ever write another book in this form," McKenzie revealed to Ron Hogan for the Beatrice Web site, "but I actually really like the possibilities it creates, how stories can unite in unexpected ways."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2004, Michael Cart, review of Stop That Girl: A Novel in Stories, p. 708.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2004, review of Stop That Girl, p. 1064.
Library Journal, November 15, 2004, Eleanor J. Bader, review of Stop That Girl, p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 2004, review of Stop That Girl, p. 40.
School Library Journal, July, 2005, Pat Bender, review of Stop That Girl, p. 132.
Beatrice Web site, http://www.beatrice.com/ (November 28, 2005), Ron Hogan, "Author2Author: Elizabeth McKenzie & Curtis Sittenfeld" (interview).
January Online, http://www.janmag.com/ (December 20, 2005), Edward Champion, "Literary Siesta," review of Stop That Girl.
Litquake, http://www.litquake.org/ (November 28, 2005), biography of Elizabeth McKenzie.