Minot, Eliza 1970-
Minot, Eliza 1970-
Last name pronounced "Mine-it"; born 1970, in Beverly, MA; daughter of George Richards and Helen Ruth Minot; married, 1999; children: five. Education: Graduated from Barnard College.
Home—Maplewood, NJ. Agent—Melanie Jackson Agency, LLC, 250 W. 57th St., Ste. 119, New York, NY 10107.
Writer. Late Night with Conan O'Brien, researcher, 1993-97; Michael Moore: The Awful Truth, executive producer, 1998.
Elizabeth Janeman Prize for Prose Writing, Barnard College, 1990, 1991; Howard M. Teichmann Writing Award for Seniors, Barnard College.
The Tiny One (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
The Brambles (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.
Eliza Minot's debut novel, The Tiny One, is semi-autobiographical, the story of an eight-year-old girl whose mother has recently died in a car accident. Susan Minot, Eliza's older sister, also wrote a first novel, Monkeys, based on their childhoods and their mother's death.
Minot was the youngest of seven children. In the novel, Via Revere is the youngest of four in a loving and close family. They live in Massachusetts, ski in New Hampshire, spend summers in Maine, and live a life similar to that of Minot's own childhood. Via's world is shattered when she loses her mother, and the novel spans one day in the life of the fourth grader as Via recalls life with Mum and memories of her early childhood. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote in the New York Times that "it's an ordinary school day, but in piecing it together, Ms. Minot plunges us back into the world of childhood, reminding and articulating for us the wonders of discovering new tastes, smells, sights, textures, and sounds; the hugeness of physical hurts, the terror of nightmares, the cruelty of playmates, and the way a parent can make everything right again."
In a Booklist review, Gillian Engberg called Minot "a writer who seems to remember acutely the emotional terrain of childhood." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Abundant humor suffuses the mixture of wonder and bewilderment with which Via tries to interpret the world." The reviewer went on to write: "Yet we never forget that a child awakened to grief is summoning these comforting memories as solace." Library Journal reviewer Eleanor J. Bader called it a "powerful first novel." Claire Whitcomb wrote in Victoria that Minot "has perfect pitch, whether she's depicting Via trying to touch her tongue to her nose, sharing her Welsh rarebit in the cafeteria, or curling up for a nap with Mum." Adriana Leshko noted in Harper's Bazaar that "not surprisingly, some wags have dubbed Knopf ‘the House of Minot,’ as brother George's first novel is also on contract there. Eyes in the publishing world are rolling at the perceived nepotism but are straining to read every word."
Jeffrey Eugenides commented in the New York Times Book Review that Minot "is willfully, or very creatively, fusing the Jamesian method with the Salingeresque. At times, she allows Via to speak in an almost grown-up, or at least teenage, voice. At others, she wants to indicate to the reader the limits of Via's experience." Eugenides continued: "If pressed, I would have to count this indeterminacy of voice a flaw." Nevertheless, the reviewer added: "As flaws go, however, it's far from devastating," adding: "Occasionally, the bridges between sections are forced, but the sections themselves are always rich with detail and fresh insight." Eugenides concluded by saying that Via's voice, "however old or young, is infectious. Eliza Minot has a sharp eye, a great ear, and a terrific memory. She has a sorceress's ability to perceive the emotional spirits trapped in nature. She has a wild, unstrung, lyrical gift. Reading The Tiny One is like going under hypnosis to retrieve repressed memories—not of abuse, but of everything we'd like to remember and can't."
In her next novel, The Brambles, Minot writes another story about parental death. This time, three adult siblings have individual reactions when their mother is killed in an airplane crash and then only a few months later they learn their father is dying. The oldest sibling, Margaret, cares for her father while she rues the fact that her children are growing up. Max has quit his job and cannot bring himself to tell his wife. Meanwhile, the youngest sibling, Edie, is suffering from an eating disorder and depression. By the novel's end, the three siblings must deal with another shock when they learn a family secret that changes all their thoughts about their own identities.
Critics generally had high praise for The Brambles. Reba Leiding, writing in the Library Journal, noted the novel's "warm portrayal of families and relationships and its unexpected plot twists." A New Yorker contributor commented that the sharpness of the author's "descriptions succeeds in making her characters seem real and sympathetic." Several reviewers also praised the author's ability to portray an authentic and convoluted family life. A Kirkus Reviews contributor, for example, wrote that Minot "is especially adept at conveying the heckle-jeckle confusion that rules a household full of children." The reviewer went on to call The Brambles "a moving portrait of the ties that bind." Commenting that Minot has matured significantly as a writer, Meghan Daum wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "With its multiple points of view, well-meaning but befuddled characters and fearlessness in the face of its own dark insights into family life, this is a grown-up book about grown-up people."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 1999, Gillian Engberg, review of The Tiny One, p. 233.
Elle, November, 1999, Lisa Shea, review of The Tiny One, p. 136.
Entertainment Weekly, July 21, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of The Brambles, p. 73.
Harper's Bazaar, November, 1999, Adriana Leshko, review of The Tiny One, p. 152.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of The Brambles, p. 433.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Eleanor J. Bader, review of The Tiny One, p. 141; April 1, 2006, Reba Leiding, review of The Brambles, p. 84.
New Yorker, August 7, 2006, review of The Brambles, p. 89.
New York Times, November 4, 1999, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of The Tiny One, pp. B9(-N), E10(L).
New York Times Book Review, November 7, 1999, Jeffrey Eugenides, review of The Tiny One, p. 17; August 20, 2006, Meghan Daum, review of The Brambles, p. 11.
Publishers Weekly, September 6, 1999, review of The Tiny One, p. 79; March 6, 2006, review of The Brambles, p. 42.
Victoria, February, 2000, Claire Whitcomb, review of The Tiny One, p. 48.
Phoenix,http://www.thephoenix.com/ (August 8, 2006), Sharon Steel, review of The Brambles.