Newman, Sandra 1965-
NEWMAN, Sandra 1965-
PERSONAL: Born 1965. Education: Earned B.A.; attended University of East Anglia.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England, and California. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10012.
CAREER: Copyeditor, gambler's assistant, typist, and writer.
The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2002, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Sandra Newman has lived and traveled throughout the world, with stops in Germany, Russia, Malyasia, and England, and has worked a variety of jobs ranging from copyeditor to professional gambler's assistant. She includes elements of her own peripatetic life in her debut novel, The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, about Chrysalis Moffat, a young woman struggling to find herself in an often confusing and fast-paced world.
After the death of her biological Peruvian parents, Chrysalis is adopted and raised by a wealthy California couple and gains a brother in their son, Eddie. When her adoptive parents die, Chrysalis and Eddie decide to take care of themselves, with unfortunate results. While Eddie copes with a broken heart after a torrid love affair with a professional blackjack player, Chrysalis grapples with depression by hiding under her bed. When Eddie is bequeathed a mansion from his mother's estate, he decides to turn it into a school for Buddhist life management, and with help from Chrysalis and friend Ralph, the plan becomes reality. While Chrysalis becomes enamoured of Ralph, whose mysterious past includes an undisclosed link to the often oblivious Eddie, the novel moves toward a tragic denouement and the haunting secret of Chrysalis's childhood is revealed.
Writing her tale as an outline, Newman's style was described by some contributors as potentially confusing. "Newman's stylistic tics might be standing in for Chrysalis's struggle to find her own identity, but it feels as if the book is having an identity crisis of its own," commented Sandi Tan in the L.A. Weekly online. Fiona Campbell, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, complimented Newman on her "well written, original, and powerful" debut, but also agreed that "the experimental structure is at times tedious." Overall however, The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done met with approval from critics, some of whom drew comparisons with noted twentieth-century novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Myla Goldberg, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called Newman "a risk taker, a writer unafraid to follow her imagination into all sorts of terrain, and this trait is in frustratingly short supply in contemporary literature." While noting that the author's "literary sleights of hand sometimes feel like willful distractions from weaknesses of character and narrative," Goldberg was heartened "to know there is a new voice out there willing and eager to take to the [literary] stage in such a daring fashion." Adrienne Miller, in her Esquire review, agreed, calling The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done "a witty, imaginative debut from a young novelist with dazzling intellectual resources."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), November 16, 2002, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of The OnlyGood Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, p. 563.
New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2003, Myla Goldberg, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, p. 27.
Observer (London, England), April 14, 2002, Anna Shapiro, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, p. 17.
Times Literary Supplement, May 17, 2002, Fiona Campbell, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done, p. 23.
Esquire Online,http://www.esquire.com/ (July 22, 2003), Adrienne Miller, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done.
L.A. Weekly Online,http://www.laweekly.com/ (August 1-7, 2003), Sandi Tan, review of The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done.*