American author of young adult novels.
The following entry presents an overview of Kindl's career through 2003.
Kindl has, in the space of a decade, become a well-respected author of young adult novels, plumbing themes from alienation to sibling rivalry and coming-of-age in fanciful yet oddly realistic storylines. Her works, which often have thematic origins in classical mythology and fairy tales, address a variety of female-oriented adolescent issues, such as body image, displacement, and social anxieties. Her debut novel, Owl in Love (1993), explores teenaged alienation by recounting the story of fourteen-year-old Owl Tycho, a shapeshifter who takes the form of an owl at night. Though Kindl turned to writing late in life, she has developed a reputation as a skilled, best-selling author whose works largely appeal to the unique sensibilities of maturing young female readers.
Kindl was born on October 16, 1951, in Alplaus, New York, the youngest of four girls. Her father, Fred Kindl, worked as a mechanical engineer for his own firm in upstate New York, while her mother, Catherine, was a stay-at-home caregiver. After graduating from high school, Kindl moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she attended Webster College, dropping out after a few semesters to pursue her dream of acting. She headed to New York City, where, supplementing her income as a waitress for several years, she managed to get work as a model and appeared in several commercials. Frustrated by the slow progress of her acting career, she took a secretarial job at her father's engineering firm. Here she met her future husband, Paul Fredrick Roediger, a mechanical designer, with whom she has a son, Alexander. She decided to dedicate herself to writing seriously in her thirties and quit her secretarial job in Schenectady, New York. Her first young adult novel, Owl in Love, was based on a particularly vivid dream Kindl had one night. The manuscript took Kindl a full year to complete, after which she approached a local author, Athena Lord, for tips on getting published. Lord advised her to find a book she respected, call its publisher, and get the name of the editor who produced it. Kindl chose Enter Three Witches by Kate Gilmore, edited by Matilda Welter of Houghton Mifflin. Kindl passed her manuscript along to Welter, who accepted it for publication after a series of revisions. Kindl told The ALAN Review in 1999 that, "I don't know how to write a novel. Other authors will have definite steps, create outlines and character sheets, or write a certain amount of pages a day. I sit down in front of my computer and write down anything that happens to come into my head. I keep doing that about 500 times until I get two thoughts that link up to each other. I don't know what's going on until about three-quarters the way through. This is incredibly stupid and painfully slow." Regardless, Owl in Love became a critical and popular success, and Kindl has followed the novel with three subsequent publications.
Many of Kindl's young adult novels have fairy tale connections; even when not obviously inspired by direct links to specific stories, the literary chains in terms of voice, structure, and style are nonetheless evident. The Woman in the Wall (1997), for instance, has strong parallels to such traditional stories as "Cinderella," "The Elves and the Shoemaker," and "The Ugly Duckling," with critics drawing further bonds to such disparate authors as Lewis Carroll, Franz Kafka, and Anne Frank. Similarly, Goose Chase (2001) has obvious associations with "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel, "The Six Swans," and most closely, "The Goose Girl." And even though no such easily apparent relationship exists to Owl in Love, the plot does feature shades of the Welsh fantasy epic of the Mabinogion and its tale of Blodeuwedd, cursed into the shape of an owl for her betrayal of her husband Lleu llaw Gyffes. However, contemporaneous settings and topicality set Kindl's works apart from their mythic origins, addressing such issues as body image, the outsider status, and the difficulties of fitting in with peers. Kindl's most recent work, Lost in the Labyrinth (2002), also features a twist on the normative setting of legend. In this novel, she turns her attention to the Greek myths of the Minotaur, Theseus, and Icarus. However, rather than offering a traditional re-telling, in Kindl's recreation, the ostensible heroes of Theseus and Ariadne take on more villainous shades, and the Minotaur—stepbrother to both Ariadne and the story's narrator, Xenodice—is merely misunderstood, as are Xenodice's friends Icarus and Daedalus.
Each of the heroines of Kindl's first three books—and to a lesser extent, the not-so-terrible Minotaur of Lost in the Labyrinth—share commonalities, such as the apparent foreignness of their bodies in the midst of their maturation, first loves, and concerns about interactions with peers. Owl Tycho, the protagonist of Owl in Love, is a fourteen-year-old "wereowl," a girl who is able to transform into a barn owl at night. While she enjoys her special gift, she is nonetheless aware of its problematic nature in the modern world. She hides her secret at school, though she still tries to fit in as best as possible, even when—unlike her classmates—her school lunch involves a mouse sandwich complete with tail. Perhaps even more difficult for her is the unrequited crush she bears for her science teacher Mr. Lindstrom. Her world changes when she sees a disoriented foreign barn owl who apparently shares her same secret. Naming him Houle, she decides to secretly care for him with the assistance of her best friend, Dawn. The heroine of The Woman in the Wall, Anna Newland, shares Owl's sense of self-consciousness and worries of alienation. To avoid school and the threat of dealing with the outside world, the agoraphobic Anna retreats into the walls of her family house when she is only seven, avoiding the attempts of her family to get her out again. She masters carpentry, adjusting the shape of the corridors she inhabits to make them more comfortable, thereby gradually reducing the size of her mother's and her two sisters' rooms through subtle rearrangements of the home. Her mother's reaction to Anna's disappearance is a mixture of embarrassment and negligence, acting as if her daughter were "merely hiding" and referring to her in the third person. Anna's world irrevocably alters when three major changes disrupt her hidden universe—the onset of puberty; the addition to her family of her mother's new husband, Mr. Albright, and his son Francis; and the appearance of notes addressed to Anna that are signed "F." Thinking the notes are from her sister's boyfriend Foster, she decides to emerge from her shelter, dressing like a "‘great, gaudy’ luna moth" for an appearance at her sister's Halloween party. The parallels to "Cinderella" are apparent, though Anna's world features a few alterations, such as the unlikely assistance of her absentee mother and Anna's growing worries about the changes to her body, a process she mostly faces on her own. Similarly, Alexandria Aurora Fortunato of Goose Chase is a girl like no other, shedding gold dust from her hair and gifted with tears that turn to diamonds. In this fantasy, Alexandria cares for a gaggle of geese who are, unknowingly to Anna, her twelve sisters transformed into birds by a curse. Perhaps the closest analogue to a traditional fairy tale in Kindl's canon, Alexandria's story ends in a similar fashion: her sisters are cured, her true royal heritage comes to light, and she seems destined to get the man of her dreams, a young man who has triumphed to win her heart over Alexandria's other suitors. And yet, the restoration of her sisters creates conflicts of which unexpected and nontraditional complications arise. Now one of thirteen, rather than simply by herself, Alexandria suddenly is the youngest and therefore farthest from the throne. Similarly, she finds that whereas before she was the sole object of her suitor's eye, her position is now shifted and her prince, Edmund, is the enviable object of her sisters' desire.
Kindl's young adult novels have been well-received for their quirky and appealing protagonists whose endearing narrative voices successfully engage their adolescent female readers. Jeannette Hulick of The ALAN Review has commented that, "[n]o one understands [the] particular quagmire of adolescence so well as the quirky (to understate it) heroines of young adult author Patrice Kindl." Her first book, Owl in Love, has been recognized for its narrative achievement by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Library Association, the School Library Journal, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The Publishers Weekly review of Owl in Love has noted that Kindl's "prose is remarkably even in its wit, one of many virtues in this tautly plotted and touching novel." While Hazel Rochman of Booklist has lauded The Woman in the Wall as a "touching, dreamy story," Martha V. Parravano from Horn Book Magazine has criticized the book as "somewhat disappointing" and a "rather run-of-the-mill Cinderella story." In her assessment of Lost in the Labyrinth, Anita L. Burkham has argued that Kindl "really engages the reader" through her "ability to imagine what it would have been like for a princess on Crete to live in the labyrinthine Palace of Knossos, to love her family and to be in love with a slave, to try—and fail—to save those she loves, and to go on to live after that failure."
Owl in Love (young adult novel) 1993
The Woman in the Wall (young adult novel) 1997
Goose Chase (young adult novel) 2001
Lost in the Labyrinth (young adult novel) 2002
Patrice Kindl and Elizabeth Devereaux (interview date 20 December 1993)
SOURCE: Kindl, Patrice, and Elizabeth Devereaux. "Flying Starts: Patrice Kindl." Publishers Weekly 240, no. 51 (20 December 1993): 30.
[In the following interview, Kindl discusses the inspiration for and the critical reception of her young adult novel Owl in Love.]
If Patrice Kindl weren't in the habit of telling herself bedtime stories, she might never have come up with the idea for the novel Owl in Love (Houghton Mifflin), a fantasy about a 14-year-old "wereowl"—schoolgirl by day, owl by night—who falls in love with her science teacher.
"I don't sleep well," says the author, "and I have to tell myself stories to fall asleep. I have some serials that have been going, literally, since I was a teenager. Owl started off as an image of a woman who was so much in love that in order to keep watch over the man she loved, she changed herself into an owl. I could see the owl looking through the window while her lover sleeps, with the frozen black forest in the background, and I woke myself up out of this half-dream, half-waking state, and thought, I like that, what can I do with that?"
Kindl, now 42, had at that time recently left an "excruciatingly boring" part-time secretarial job in the Schenectady, N.Y., area. She had always wanted to be a writer and she has, in fact, always written—first poetry, then picture books to be given as Christmas presents, and finally "middle-grade to YA novels, the kind of books I read for pleasure," she says. Signs of progress gave her confidence enough to devote herself to her literary goals—"to be a writer, by God!" The day after her vision of the owl, she sat down at her computer, "and I had a first chapter before I knew it."
She then dove into the project, undertaking extensive research about owls. Her imagination was to get the upper hand: it was not so much that she knew about birds and owls as that she was taken with their ability to fly. "I think you should write about things you love," she says. "Flying dreams are among the most exhilarating moments in my life.
"Also, I remember being in love at 14. There is something fierce about it. Although it's not predatory, the passion of a 14-year-old reminds me of the passion of a bird of prey."
It took her about a year to complete Owl. In her search for a publisher, she followed the advice of another Schenectady-area writer, Athena Lord. "She suggested that I read contemporary books (published within the last five years or so), find a book in my genre that I admire, call up the publisher and ask the person at the switchboard who edited it, then target that editor. The book that I chose was Enter Three Witches by Kate Gilmore." Its editor was Matilda Welter of Houghton Mifflin.
Kindl expected an uphill battle. She'd sent out a previous manuscript to a publisher, which told her it was "under consideration"—for a period of three years, until she finally withdrew it. Welter, on the other hand, impressed her by responding promptly and staying in close communication. "She made me cut it down, do some rewriting. She accepted it on the second go-round."
The reception of Owl also surprised Kindl, whose hopes were modest: "I had just wanted to get it onto a bookshelf somewhere." Reviews and sales, however, have been anything but desultory, with Puffin buying paperback rights and with critics comparing her to two of her favorite writers, Diane Wynne-Jones and Margaret Mahy. "You couldn't possibly give higher praise, as far as I'm concerned," she says.
Kindl won't talk about her work in progress, having "lost" two novels after discussing them prematurely with her writers' group. She will say that the work is a fantasy, and that there are no people/animal metamorphoses. Her admirers can only wish her a few more sleepless nights, and some more vivid dreams.
Patrice Kindl and Lisa K. Winkler (interview date winter 1999)
SOURCE: Kindl, Patrice, and Lisa K. Winkler. "Patrice Kindl Interview by Lisa K. Winkler." ALAN Review 26, no. 2 (online edition), http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/winter99/winkler.html (winter 1999).
[In the following interview, Kindl discusses her personal background, her writing career, and her young adult novels Owl in Love and The Woman in the Wall.]
To appreciate Patrice Kindl, just look at her gold charm bracelet that dangles delicately from her wrist. Purchased with her first check after her first book was published, the bracelet reveals much about the Young Adult writer's life and loves. There's a typewriter for writing (she couldn't find a computer charm); an owl for her first book, Owl in Love ; and binoculars for her second, The Woman in the Wall. There's a saw reflecting her passion for renovating old houses and a boat reminiscent of her childhood on Lake George. And there's a monkey.
Kindl and her husband, Paul Roediger, are foster parents to two Capuchin monkeys, who are in training to become "Helping Hands" for quadriplegics. They've had the monkeys nearly nine years and are reasons, says Kindl, why she's a very slow, undisciplined writer. Kindl regaled her audience with stories, about the monkeys and herself, at Dr. M. Jerry Weiss' Adolescent in Literature class at Jersey City University this past December.
Caring for the monkeys keeps the 47-year-old author quite confined to her 164-year-old Greek Revival house in a small town in rural, upstate New York—a requirement she finds crucial to her life as a writer. The house has twin parlors, one for entertaining; the other for the monkeys and Kindl's office. She writes with one monkey on her shoulder and the other on her lap. Though she says they know how to depress a computer button, her books are not "ghost written by monkeys." Kindl loves the solitude and dramatic scenery of her location which enables her to concentrate on her writing. Her husband is a mechanical designer and travels a lot, leaving Kindl alone to write and tend to the monkeys. Just being able to combine their trip to Jersey City with an overnight in New York City to visit son Alex, a senior at the Pratt Institute, involved arranging monkey sitters.
Kindl's Writing Process
Kindl believes she's an anomaly among writers who can claim literary heritages as influencing their careers. She's from a long line of engineers and with the exception of a few creative great-aunts, no one was a writer. And Kindl is convinced her method, though it works for her, shouldn't be followed by anyone.
"I don't know how to write a novel. Other authors will have definite steps, create outlines and character sheets, or write a certain amount of pages a day. Writing a novel is like living a life. There are as many ways to do it as any other," she said. She warns not to write the way she does. "I sit down in front of my computer and write down anything that happens to come into my head. I keep doing that about 500 times until I get two thoughts that link up to each other. I don't know what's going on until about three-quarters the way through. This is incredibly stupid and painfully slow."
Yet, this tall and elegant author has written two young adult fantasies, and she's in the midst of a third. Without having literary influences in her life, she didn't realize writing posed a viable career path. She never finished college, worked as a secretary in New York City while trying to become an actor ("I failed spectacularly," she quips), and then worked for her father's engineering company where she met her husband. She says she wrote privately as a child but didn't begin writing seriously until several years ago.
Like many writers, Kindl says she's always been an avid reader. In school, she'd keep a book underneath the desk and read while the teacher's back was turned. But when she was caught, her parents forbade her to read novels for a month. At the end of her punishment, her parents bought her a large anthology of short stories and reading once again became a "seductive pleasure." She still has this book yet extols that more choices for young adult readers now exist than did in her childhood. She recited a long list of YA authors, from Avi to Zindel, that she finds enticing. She's proud and honored to be in the YA field. "I'm a writer who's found subjects and it's where I want to be." Her heroines are reflections of her that she's developed "as far as they can go and then stand alone as human beings", she says.
Owl In Love
Owl in Love is the story of a normal Shakespeare-quoting fourteen-year-old, Owl Tycho, who is a shape shifter. She changes into an owl, flies around every night catching mice and voles for food, and spies on her married science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom, who she's madly in love with. Her parents, though unable to transform, are witches and eccentric in their own ways. During one of her evening vigils, she notices an unkempt teenage boy lurking in the woods near Mr. Lindstrom's home and peering through his windows. On other nights, she sees a barn owl, like herself, only male, similarly scouting about. An intriguing story ensues. Owl befriends both the boy and the owl, (who are one and the same); enlists the aid of her friend, Dawn, in feeding and protecting the boy/owl, Houle; and abets in the reuniting of Houle, a.k.a. David, with his estranged parents. Kindl researched about owls, making her story convincing. Owl is a believable teenager who easily assumes her second identity and Owl in Love is a romantic fantasy written with wit and page-turning appeal. The book is dedicated to Kindl's husband and son and also to Kandy, one of the monkeys, "without whom this book would have been written in half the time." In creating Owl, Kindl touches on an aspect of adolescence she remembers. Teens are experimenting with a range of emotions. "It's an age when you try on masks of different personalities and can change your personality quite deliberately," she said.
The Woman in the Wall
After the success of Owl in Love, published in 1993, Kindl was hounded by total strangers seeking autographs and interviews at her bucolic country home. This perpetual invasion planted the idea for her second book, The Woman in the Wall, published in 1997. Desperately, shy Anna disappears at seven years old into the walls of the rambling twenty-two room Victorian mansion she shares with her mother and two sisters. Faced with the threat of attending school, Anna creates living space within the walls of the house using her polished skills as a carpenter, plumber and seamstress. Her mother is angry initially and talks to Anna as is she was merely hiding behind the draperies. In time, the family seems to forget entirely about her. Yet Anna observes the family, particularly her older sister Andrea and her friends. And she continues to develop into a woman. Writes Kindl: "I'm not a monster at all; I'm a woman." At fourteen, someone mysteriously crams a folded piece of white paper into a crevice in the wall. This letter, from "F", changes Anna forever. She becomes a love-torn adolescent faced with revealing her identity and learning to rebuild her life outside her walls. "I will build myself a house out of my own flesh and bones where my frightened child-self can find shelter."
"Is The Woman in the Wall autobiographical?" is one of Kindl's most frequently asked questions by readers. Says Kindl: "I was a shy child. Everyone's a shy teenager; everyone has an excruciating adolescence." Anna comes of age by reconciling her life outside of her walls. Kindl's monkey, Susi, also provided inspiration for Anna. Susi used to hide underneath a blanket but learned to come out, Kindl explains.
Her third novel involves a "young woman on some sort of a quest" reveals Kindl. It is still without a title and a plot. Kindl says she's about half-way done. As readers, we can only anticipate a fantasy surely to scintillate and remind us of some facet of our adolescence. And hopefully, we'll see many more "book" charms on her bracelet.
Marla Harris (essay date winter 2002-2003)
SOURCE: Harris, Marla. "‘How Difficult It Is Being Human!’: Transforming Bodies in Patrice Kindl's Fiction." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 27, no. 4 (winter 2002-2003): 212-19.
[In the following essay, Harris examines how the protagonists in Kindl's young adult novels embody the "other" through their sense of alienation and their unique body relationships.]
"At the close of the twentieth century," asserts Joan Jacobs Brumberg in The Body Project (1997), "the female body poses an enormous problem for American girls" (xvii). While contemporary girls may perceive themselves to be more liberated than their female forebears, she finds that maintaining and managing the female body has, in fact, become increasingly time-consuming and anxiety-producing. At first glance the resourceful protagonists of Patrice Kindl's three fantasy novels—Owl in Love (1994), The Woman in the Wall (1997), and Goose Chase (2001)—are hardly typical fourteen-year-old girls: Owl Tycho can metamorphose into an owl at will; Anna Newland lives inside walls; and Alexandria Aurora Fortunato has hair that sheds gold dust and tears that turn to diamonds. Having said that, however, I wish to argue that the anxiety and alienation that they register regarding their bodies, however fantastic those bodies seem, are not radically unlike the experiences of "normal" adolescent girls, and offers a way of critiquing traditional notions of the female body.
In "The Battleground for the Adolescent Girl's Body" (1998), Brenda Boudreau explains how the body often "becomes an obstacle to autonomy and self-agency as the girl tries to reconcile her body to the demands of a socially proscribed gendered identity, leading, paradoxically, to feelings of disembodiment" (43). Kindl's heroines suffer rather from an excess of bodies (or bodies that become excessive), complicating their relationship to humanity as well as femininity. Owl, the heroine of Owl in Love, is situated between species, an outsider in both owl and human societies. She explains that "other owls tend to avoid me, sensing something alien," while her school friend Dawn complains that "Sometimes I feel like I'm talking Swahili with you" (38, 43).
The Woman in the Wall 's Anna, imagining herself both as a tiny girl and giantess, regards other people as if members of another species. Through observing teenage boys and girls, she compares herself to "an animal behaviorist crouching on an ice floe trying to work out the social relationships of a tribe of penguins" (61). Her alienation is such that she ponders whether she herself is human, and whether she is even alive. Alexandria's status in Goose Chase is similarly ambiguous. Her clothing, appearance, and speech reveal her upper class status, despite her persistent claim that she is a goose-girl. While she retains a girl's body, her dramatic rescue from the Prince's tower, on a flying featherbed carried by her geese, transforms her, at least symbolically, into a goose like her sisters.
Not only do Kindl's heroines experience alienation from their own bodies, but their perspective as narrators who write from the position of the "other" puts into question what constitutes a "normal" female body, as well as what constitutes normal familial and social relationships. At some point, each of these girls feels like an imposter, a female impersonator. The implicit ideal against which these heroines measure themselves may be, broadly speaking, white, middle-class, and heterosexual, but Kindl's strategies of defamiliarizing bodies, appropriating texts, and subverting romance plots challenge the naturalness and inevitability of such a narrow definition of femininity.
Particularly in Owl in Love, describing girls in terms of what and how they eat is one way that Kindl defamiliarizes the girl's body. As Susan Bordo points out, female hunger is a culturally loaded term: "the control of female appetite for food is merely the most concrete expression of the general rule governing the construction of femininity: that female hunger—for public power, for independence, for sexual gratification—be contained" (96).1 Both Owl's and Dawn's eating habits defy the appetites for girls, as defined by teen magazines, nor are their bodies those of models. Both girls also eat differently from their mothers, since Owl's mother eats human food and Dawn's eats almost nothing. Dawn shrewdly guesses that Owl's difference from her is related to eating: "You don't like our food and you don't want anybody to see what you do eat. Or how you eat" (158). Because of her preference for raw rodents, Owl never eats lunch at school, and must indulge her hunger secretly by cover of night. One day, however, anticipating a time when she will have to eat in public with her beloved teacher Mr. Lindstrom, she varies her routine. Posing as an ordinary teen girl, Owl brings a dead mouse, neatly sandwiched between slices of white bread, into the school cafeteria. Just as Owl watches Dawn's hamster munch on food pellets with morbid fascination, so her fellow students follow her every bite, dissecting her with their eyes as if she herself is a lab rat. Moreover, Owl frets that a whisker or tail will "escape." It is as if the sandwich that she has so carefully fashioned, like Owl herself, may accidentally reveal itself as "other." Yet Owl's otherness causes her to make friends with Dawn. When a science experiment requires each student to type her own blood, Owl, aware that her black blood will "out" her, enlists Dawn as a substitute blood donor.
Although compared to Owl, Dawn is a normal teenager, she, too, is an outsider at school because she is overweight. Like Owl, Dawn is preoccupied with and secretive about eating. She steals food from the kitchen, hoards it in her closet, and lies about it to her mother, who tries unsuccessfully to slim her down. From Owl's perspective, Dawn's Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, and Suzy Qs are as strange and unappealing as Owl's own food is to Dawn. In fact, when Owl samples white bread, hot dogs, and potato chips, she is unable to transform or fly, underscoring the unnatural nature of such highly processed food. Dawn's excessive appetite and Owl's deviant diet put them both at odds with cultural norms regarding how girls should eat and act. Just as Owl turns into a predator at night, when good girls are home in bed, so Dawn sneaks out of her house at night, lies to her parents, and hides a strange boy in the garage.
A second way that Kindl defamiliarizes girls' bodies is through distorted perceptions of the body. In The Woman in the Wall, Anna's family initially keeps her a secret so that "no one outside of our immediate family, not even the neighbors, believed in my existence" (10). Her sister Andrea compares her to "The Invisible Man," questioning not only her corporeal status, but also her gender (13). Her sister's conviction that she is invisible is confirmed when the visiting school psychologist, Mrs. Waltzhammer, mistakes Anna for the doll that she is holding on her lap. This confusion merely literalizes the way in which Anna's own mother and sisters objectify her, often speaking about her in the third person even while she is there. Furthermore they perceive her primarily in terms of the tasks—cleaning, cooking, sewing, and repairing—that she performs for them.
Anna herself fantasizes wistfully about becoming an inanimate object: "How difficult it is being human! Inanimate objects never have all these complicated emotions. Just think how simple and pleasant it would be to go through life as an object. An attractive little blue sugar bowl with a painted bird on the lid, for instance, sitting in a patch of sunlight on the breakfast table" (15). But Anna goes on to imagine the destruction that would occur "if a careless elbow knocked you over and you smashed to bits," as if she cannot imagine anything or any person remaining whole (15). That Anna should blame "a careless elbow" rather than the person possessing the elbow reflects her difficulty in conceiving either her own subjectivity or that of others. From her peephole inside the wall, Anna's gaze enacts a violent dismemberment of her family, seeing them as body parts rather than as whole bodies: "a hand, an elbow, the back of a head, sometimes a knee or a foot. I learned to read emotion in the lift of a wrist, the angle of a spine, the nervous twitch of an ankle" (34). In turn, her family, who quickly "began to forget that I was a real flesh-and-blood person," scripts its own murder plot by quietly editing Anna out of the family genealogy (37).
Boudreau connects sensations of disembodiment with the onset of adolescence, but, in Anna's case, the process is reversed. From having/being no body, Anna undergoes a metamorphosis (recognizable to the reader as puberty) into a "fat, hairy, bleeding monster" (42). Suddenly her body intrudes on her—with pus, blood, sweat, and hunger pangs—in ways she cannot ignore. Whereas previously her body demanded little sustenance, she now gorges secretly at night on leftovers from the family's meals. Like Alice in the White Rabbit's house, she is in danger of outgrowing her space. Deciding to wash and cover up this grotesque body, Anna regards herself as an imposter, "a clean, self-respecting monster" (45) masquerading as a human girl: "If I washed and combed my hair, cleaned the dirt out from under my nails, and changed into clean clothes, would I not be recognizably a human being? I thought that perhaps I would. Even though I knew that deep inside I had changed forever, maybe it didn't have to be so obvious" (44). Anna's attitude toward her changing body is ambivalent. Although she initially expresses dismay verging on self-loathing, as a direct result of this change she becomes a subjective being who, for the first time, has to look after her own body, her wants and needs, becoming her own caretaker.
Kindl defamiliarizes the girl's body in a third way by attributing magical properties to that body. In Goose Chase, unlike the unpleasant secretions that Anna tries to wash away and cover up, Alexandria sheds valuable resources—gold and diamonds. If, for Anna, the metamorphosis from doll to woman means acknowledging dirt, Alexandria is transformed from a dirty goose-girl into a Teflon-coated doll in a princess costume. Like Anna, she, too, feels she is an imposter, in disguise as a princess (although she learns at the end that she really is one). From being socially invisible, shunned by even the local village children, Alexandria's newfound visibility threatens to reduce her to a passive object with no voice in her own future. Her two suitors, the lecherous old King of Gilboa and the young egotistical Prince Edmund of Dorloo, imprison her in a tower until she decides between them. Resembling the goose that laid the golden egg more than a goose girl, Alexandria's new body renders her a commodity.2
In each of these novels, the heroine is placed in a position where she feels at odds with the body or bodies that she inhabits. Owl increasingly finds that her owl and girl selves are in conflict, with the result that she cannot transform when she chooses, becoming "truly a prisoner in my body," whether it is the body of a girl or that of an owl (171). At first Anna is vulnerable because no one can see her body. Later, interpreting her menstrual bleeding as an injury, she perceives her adolescent body as deformed, diseased, and damaged. In so doing, Anna unwittingly internalizes male anti-feminist attitudes towards the female body.3 Alexandria is alienated not only from the dirty brown hair and saltwater tears of her natural body, but also from her prior identity as goose-girl, which is incompatible with her changed appearance. But through her otherness, each heroine finds ways to assert herself.
Like Anna, who would like to wall off all those "complicated emotions," Owl tries to keep separate her owl and human selves. Being a part-time girl, she realizes, has it own expectations: being quiet, earning good grades, eating sparingly, reacting squeamishly at the sight of blood, acting selflessly, and being too weak to walk four miles. In fact her owl self is antithetical to good-girl behavior. Marina Warner points out that in fairy tales, animal metamorphosis can be "preferable as a temporary measure to the constrictions of a woman's shape," allowing the heroine "to enter a new territory of choice and speech" (354). For Owl, her animal shape is indeed liberating. As an owl, she can travel long distances by herself, stay up all night, fight, be selfish, entertain an older suitor, engage in violent murder, and peep in men's bedroom windows. Also, it is as an owl that she proposes marriage to David/Houle. In owl form she is permitted aggression and self-assertion that would be inappropriate for a girl. Furthermore, by contemplating cannibalism during her fight with David/Houle—and metaphorically when Dawn accuses her of looking at Mr. Lindstrom "like you wanna just eat him right up" (28)—Owl is linked with the monstrous Mrs. Waltzhammer in The Woman in the Wall and the Baroness and ogresses in Goose Chase.
While Owl subverts gender stereotypes by virtue of her "wild" side, Anna appears to exemplify the ideal domesticated heroine, always at home. However, in reality she is a subversive housekeeper. The giant house is imagined as a grotesque parody of the maternal body, in which the pipes are veins and the timbers are bones. Identifying herself with the house, Anna replaces and implicitly criticizes her own less supportive, less sheltering human mother. Anna, however, also takes a more invasive approach to homemaking. Using her father's tools, she remakes the house structurally from the inside, dismantling existing walls and erecting new ones. Like a male explorer, she aggressively colonizes (for herself) the house's unmapped territory so that "[o]ver the years the rooms that Mother and Andrea and Kirsty lived in gradually dwindled and shrank" (33).
As the contested space inside the house testifies to Anna's attempts at self-assertion, so Alexandria's magical hair becomes the site of her struggle to wrest control over her body from the ogresses, the Baroness, King Claudio, and the well-meaning Prince of Dorloo.4 Even when Alexandria tries to make her hair unattractive by not washing and combing it, it reverts magically to being clean and golden. It seems to possess a life of its own, as the ogresses discover; they speak to Alexandria's hair, causing it to grow long enough that she can move around, but remain tethered, and therefore unable to leave their hut. When Alexandria learns to manipulate her hair herself, however, it becomes an instrument of liberation rather than imprisonment. In order to effect a Rapunzel-like escape from the Baroness's dungeon, Alexandria coaxes her hair to grow as a (male) lover might flatter a vain woman: "I praised it and petted it and composed endless lines to its beauty" (138). Her self-mocking address mimics the way that our culture has traditionally fetishized women's hair. Boasting of her "serpentine hairstyle," growing "higgledy-piggledy every which way," that "would have put Medusa, that ancient Gorgon of Greece with the snakes growing out of her head, entirely in the shade," she not only participates in the kind of hair fetish that she has mocked, but she also allies herself with this powerful and monstrous mythical woman (139). After all, Alexandria has turned ogresses, if not men, to stone.5
That Anna "discovers" that her own body is monstrous from her distorted reflection in a toaster, a mundane kitchen appliance, underscores the historical reality that domesticity has often proved a trap for women, but Kindl reclaims for her heroines traditionally feminine domestic chores, such as housekeeping, sewing, and cooking, redefining them as survival skills. For example, Anna is the metaphorical foundation upon which the house and her family rest: "I cooked and cleaned and sewed and kept the house in good repair" (37). While Anna's role as care-taker allows her mother and sisters to take advantage of her, it also empowers Anna by encouraging their helplessness and dependence. Alexandria likewise deploys her skills as seamstress to maintain her independence. Promising her suitors that she will choose a husband once she has finished sewing her wedding gown, she undoes her stitches secretly, like Penelope, in order to put off any decision. Later Alexandria's culinary talents persuade the ogress sisters to hire her as maid-of-all-work, rather than eat her for dinner. Even Owl, who is the least domestic of Kindl's heroines, preferring a barn strewn with leaves and mouse remains to a tidy suburban split level, prepares raw treats for David/Houle, observing: "How satisfying it was, feeding the helpless thing!" (102).
In The Woman in the Wall Anna tells us that her father mysteriously disappeared while working at his job in the Library of Congress and has never been heard from since. Because of Anna's fertile imagination, it seems entirely plausible that he is hiding somewhere among the shelves, like a misplaced book. This image of being lost within the walls or shelves of an immense library is appropriate, for while female bodies undergo the most overt transformation in Kindl's fiction, there is another kind of transformation at work, as Kindl revises, parodies, and otherwise appropriates other texts into all her novels.6 Among the likely sources for Goose Chase are fairy tales such as "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Six Swans," and "The Goose Girl." The Woman in the Wall draws on an even wider range of fictions—from fairy tales like "Cinderella," "The Elves and the Shoemaker," and "The Ugly Duckling," to Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Intertextuality need not be simply a strategy employed by a writer, as Tess Cosslett explains, for the reader is also a participant to the extent that a literary text "is full of (even composed of) echoes and reworkings of other texts, and the reader brings to her interpretation all the texts she has encountered" (15). Thus, although Kindl does not explicitly mention it, the inspiration for the character of Owl seems at least partly indebted to the Celtic myth of Blodeuwedd. A woman magically created out of flowers for the express purpose of becoming a man's wife, she falls in love with another man and with her lover, plots the murder of her husband; as punishment, Blodeuwedd is turned into an owl. From one point of view, Blodeuwedd, like Alexandria, is compelled unfairly to live in an "other" body not of her choosing and to accept a role—that of wife—that she does not want, with a man she does not desire. Her part in committing adultery and conspiring to kill her husband might be interpreted as an act of self-assertion, however destructive it seems on the surface, for she thereby rejects the identity of wife that was forced upon her. Her punishment, becoming an owl (rather than a woman defined by and for men), might, in fact, be a liberation, as I have argued that it is for Kindl's Owl.
Appropriating texts can sometimes enable writers and readers to reinterpret the apparent misogyny of prior texts, as with Blodeuwedd, or to rewrite them with a different purpose. The trope of the immured woman that is so central to The Woman in the Wall, for instance, dates back at least as far as the thousand-year-old poem entitled "The Walled-Up Wife." Popular throughout Eastern Europe and India, the plot concerns a group of men, engaged in a building project—monastery, bridge, or castle—in which the walls they build during the day collapse each night. Deciding that the successful completion of the building requires a female human sacrifice, they agree that the first woman—likely to be one of their own wives—who approaches the next morning shall be walled up alive into the foundation. In one version, "Master Manole and the Monastery of Arges," the unfortunate victim's name is Ana.7
So, too, at one point Kindl's Anna acknowledges that she (like that ancient Ana) is "trapped within the walls, like a fly encased in amber," yet Kindl remakes Anna's immurement into an expression of female self-assertion, as I have suggested, through her subversive construction of a house-within-a-house (35). Moreover, Anna enters the wall of her own accord rather than as a male punishment, and her self-entombment ultimately proves to be a reincarnation instead of a burial. Whereas the ballad depicts men as builders, Anna usurps that traditional male role, even fantasizing about building "a city underground, all for myself" (164).
That trope is also present in a work nearer to our own time, Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (1892), whose narrator hallucinates about women being literally imprisoned behind the hideous yellow wallpaper of her sickroom: "Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard" in a desperate rage that recalls Anna's howling and thrashing (30). Like Kindl, Gilman revises the trope so that her heroines do not passively acquiesce in their immurement. The narrator's frenzied ripping off the wallpaper can be read as a rescue mission, to save those "other" women trapped in the wall/paper and/or to save herself.
There is, however, one unsettling allusion that does not seem to be transformed within The Woman in the Wall ; at certain points Anna's story, for instance, bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the historical Anne Frank, another pubescent heroine who hid in a secret annex, did not get along with her mother, and kept a diary. Anna's relegation to a rodent-like pest when her mother tells Mr. Albright that she is just "a mouse inside the walls," recalls the anti- Semitic caricatures of Nazi propaganda, while her subsequent nightmares of being exterminated—"gassed, trapped, poisoned"—echo the historical reality of the Holocaust (88, 96). While evoking this imagery, Kindl chooses not to pursue the tragic implications of Anna's abuse and abandonment, retreating instead to manufacture a happier resolution.
Subverting the Romance Plot
Since Kindl's novels are first-person narratives, they implicitly record their heroines' struggles to assert control over their narratives, as well as their bodies, but Kindl's heroines have a propensity to treat extraordinary events matter-of-factly, while misinterpreting the mundane. Given the often-disturbing content of Owl in Love and The Woman in the Wall, this use of naïve narration both provides comic relief and invites the readers' judgment.
Owl begins confidently, insisting on her difference from literary monsters: "I am no vampire in a fairy tale, to be ruled by the sun or moon; I can shift to either shape at any time of night or day" (4). But Owl's story belies her claim to possess absolute control, either over her own body or her romance with Mr. Lindstrom. Her skewed knowledge of human culture is derived from her parents, who dispense love potions and money spells to the neighbors, as well as from popular magazines: "I'm not stupid, you know. I read teen magazines like Seventeen and Sassy, just like other girls" (1). Later, we learn Owl is also influenced by Bride and Psychology Today. Like a heroine of a romance novel, she insists that "it is marriage or nothing for me" (3) for "I am Owl; it is in my nature to give my love once and once only in a lifetime. I shall love him until I die, or he does" (20). While Owl begins by differentiating herself from other teenage girls, whom she derides as fickle, when her affections have shifted from Mr. Lindstrom to his son at the end of the novel, she rewrites her earlier undying passion for Mr. Lindstrom as "my infatuation" (194). As for her earlier melodramatic claims of eternal love, she rationalizes "we never really were engaged, you know. No bonding had taken place" (194).
In Owl's second and more successful romance David/Houle figures as a romantic object in need of rescue. Not only can he not control his shape-shifting, but he cannot construct a coherent narrative about himself. His language is characterized by disintegration, by lapses into repetitive nonsense (and into the nonsense verses of Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussycat"). David's "story," written in the third person, is interjected intermittently into Owl's first-person narrative, but the reader is not given sufficient information to understand who or what David is until much later. The lack of context for interpreting him mimics his own self-alienation. By renaming him "Houle" and identifying him as her prospective husband, Owl incorporates David into her story.
In contrast to Owl's self-assured persona, Anna introduces herself in The Woman in the Wall by way of a false start: "I'm Anna and I'm shy. And fourteen. That's really all there is to tell" (1). But Anna, too, tries on the role of romance heroine. Upon receiving the mysterious note from F., Anna casts herself in a fairy-tale fantasy in which she is a forgotten princess, like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, and he is the prince. For the first time she has to imagine how another person might "read" her. As she alternates between writing as herself and impersonating the other A., her sister Andrea, Anna feels her way towards developing a voice of her own.
Anna, like Owl, consciously interprets her body through texts that she reads as well as through the narrative that she writes. Just as Owl vainly tries to match her peculiar "pale gray skin" with Dawn's makeup charts and the complexions of girls in teen magazines (56), so Anna peruses Lives of Famous Women for female role models, unable to reconcile those glamorously-dressed images with her own bleeding female body: "I tried to imagine Jackie Kennedy and Marie Antoinette suffering from such a messy disability sixty days out of the year" (137). Her rejection of Lives of Famous Women in favor of Peterson's Field Guide to Insects, and her creation of a costume that blends Cleopatra and luna moth, reflect her ambiguous relationship to her own body and to the competing requirements that women be both self-effacing and exhibitionist. Her embodiment of the Cleopatra-moth also blurs the difference between women and insects, both of which have sometimes been treated as objects to be collected and displayed.
Whereas Anna and Owl seem to live in a recognizably modern world, however unrealistic their adventures, Alexandria's identification as a "goose girl," along with the text's archaic language and medieval setting, immediately suggests Goose Chase 's affinities with fairy tales. Nevertheless, Alexandria mocks fairy-tale conventions, declaring, "I am a no-nonsense, practical sort of person and I don't expect that I shall care for adventures" (22).8 She rejects outright the conventional "once upon a time" beginning, reasoning "what do I care for custom? 'Tis my own story I am telling and I will tell it as I please" (1). Recounting her fateful meeting with the hag/fairy godmother, Alexandria is decidedly ungrateful: "In the future I shall know precisely what to do if another old beggar woman comes pestering me for a bite to eat while I'm herding my Geese in the high meadow. Will I give her my last crust of bread, like the softhearted, simpleminded dunderpate that I am? No I will not; I'll send her away with a flea in her ear, that's what I'll do" (12). Alexandria also exploits, unsuccessfully, fairy-tale-type stories in order to hide her true identity from the Baroness of Breakabeen, concocting a fiction about the Golden Isles, a magical place "where the rivers run with wine, rubies and emeralds grow on golden trees, and the pigs fly about on silvery wings all day" (125). Like Owl, Alexandria, too, revises the usual gendering of power in fairy tale/romance. She is the rescuer, promising to save the Prince from the ogresses' clutches "if only you will most faithfully promise to obey me in all things" (79). As befits a feminist fairy tale, he learns to prize her ingenuity and resourcefulness, rather than her more overtly attractive diamonds and gold dust.
But if each of Kindl's novels appears to be leading up to a conventional happy ending—"girl meets boy; girl gets boy"—each also opens onto a less conventional, female-centered plot, involving the heroine's reconciliation with sister, mother, or girlfriend. Where Kindl's novels begin with the protagonist seeing herself as different from other girls and women, they end with the heroine's recognition of her likeness to other girls and women. To be sure, other women have been complicitous in the heroines' alienation—for instance, Anna's mother, her sister Andrea, and the school psychologist Mrs. Waltzhammer all bear responsibility for Anna's decision to disappear; Alexandria faces some conventional villainesses in the ogress sisters and the jealous Baroness of Breakabeen, yet it is her own mother who wished her sisters into geese; and Owl's human mother is too childlike to advise her. Mothers in general opt out in Kindl's fictions, leaving their daughters to grow up on their own, but there is a sense in which reconnecting with family, however painful, is crucial to the character's wholeness.
As Owl and David/Houle are ready to fly away together in the apparently successful culmination of the romance plot—"We're birds of a feather, and we'll be flocking together"—Dawn challenges Owl to rethink her blithe fairy-tale ending, as well as their own relationship (192). Dawn accuses Owl: "You were using me, Owl. I ran a lot of risks for you, and you never told me one single thing that was going on" (198). Because of Dawn, Owl revises her earlier harsh judgment of Mrs. Lindstrom, David's mother, whom she unsympathetically dubbed the Wailing Woman, acknowledging David's right to a relationship with his parents. As Owl comes to recognize David's and Dawn's subjectivity independent of her plotting, the conclusion shifts from the anticipated romantic ending to female friendship between Owl and Dawn.
So, too, The Woman in the Wall segues from the romance plot into family reunion. Anna's appearance incognito at Kirsty's Halloween masquerade party contains echoes of Cinderella's triumphant ball scene, except that Anna's would-be prince is Andrea's boyfriend, Foster Addams, dressed as an executioner (lady-killer?), hinting that not all male-female relationships are as non-threatening as that between Anna and her stepbrother-to-be Francis. The masquerade highlights femininity as a male-directed performance, in which Anna as Cleopatra-moth, Kirsty as catwoman, and Andrea as mermaid-siren, put themselves on display as sexualized objects (albeit powerful and potentially dangerous ones). Anna initially feels empowered (and flattered) by having all eyes fixed on her, but her sudden visibility proves dangerous, for it draws the notice of Andrea, and nearly results in her eviction when her new stepfather Mr. Albright, at Andrea's instigation, grabs her. She feels herself exposed once again as an imposter: "I felt as though I had grown monstrously large, a bloated, fleshy giantess trembling foolishly before him" (165). There is no prince. Instead Anna is reluctantly rescued by the mother who virtually abandoned her. Yet Anna's mother's inability to openly identify their relationship as mother and daughter, together with her sister Andrea's continuing hostility, suggest that Anna and her family may not be living happily ever after.
Alexandria must also face resentful relations, especially her sister Elaine, who complains of her "imperious ways over the years" (212). Just when the reader expects Alexandria, her royal birth revealed, to wed Edmund and live happily ever after, the geese intervene, as they have so often in the story, transforming into her long-lost older sisters. Up until now, despite Alexandria's evident fondness for the geese, she has treated them as property, dressing them like dolls for mock tea-parties, and ordering them around: "Geese, in case you do not know it, are very self-willed animals, stuffed to the brim with conceit and choler. One must be very, very firm with a goose" (15). To her dismay, Alexandria discovers that the geese, which she confidently believed to be radically different from her, are not only subjective beings but blood relations. Moreover, she must resign herself to coming last in the new family pecking order. The final scene of the novel substitutes sibling rivalry for romance, rewriting the opening scene with a crucial difference. This time around it is Edmund, not Alexandria, who is a contested object, desired by two female rivals.
This essay's title is drawn from Anna's plaintive observation in The Woman in the Wall that it would be easier to be an inanimate object, rather than a thinking, feeling, animate subject, but all three of Kindl's novels underscore how difficult it is to be or, more precisely, to become female, especially in a culture saturated in ambivalent images and stereotypes. As Gabby Weiss, the heroine of Nora Baskin's What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows (2001), observes, "Girls are supposed to say nice things. They compliment each other on their outfits and their haircuts. They offer to do things without being asked, like bring homemade cookies to a party or clear the dishes after supper. Even when they're mean, girls are nice about it" (7). Pointing up the historically and culturally specific status of gender, Judith Butler has argued that "what is called gender identity is a performative accomplishment compelled by social sanction and taboo," and that "gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding, gendered self" (402).
Challenging traditional notions of the female adolescent body, authors of young adult fiction have sought to include girls whose bodies do not conform for a variety of reasons, including size, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability.9 Sharon Flake and Wendy Orr, for instance, have both employed realism to examine bodily difference. For Maleeka, in Flake's The Skin I'm In (1988), who is teased for being too black, "Some of us is the wrong color. Some is the wrong size or got the wrong face" (119). For Anna, in Orr's Peeling the Onion (1996), the aftermath of an accident leaves her with a wobbly head that keeps toppling over. In order to survive both girls must find a way to redefine their bodies positively, instead of allowing themselves to be negatively defined as too dark or too damaged.
Kindl's novels, in their use of fantasy, invite comparison with young adult science fiction, particularly those texts, such as Annette Klause's Blood and Chocolate (1997), whose heroines embody otherness. Like Owl, Vivian inhabits two radically different bodies—schoolgirl and werewolf—with different sets of values, and like Owl, claims her "other" self as an integral part of her identity. Unlike Owl and Vivian, Olwen, the protagonist of Monica Hughes's The Keeper of the Isis Light (1981), has to choose between bodies. The sole human survivor on the planet Isis, she possesses a girl's brain inside a genetically altered lizard-like body. When new colonists arrive from Earth, her robot Guardian supplies her with an alternate body in the form of a spacesuit that makes her appear to be conventionally beautiful. She ultimately rejects both the suit and the colonists' offer of cosmetic surgery, preferring to remain in her "other" body, which enables her to breathe freely on Isis, whose atmosphere is lethal to humans. Most dramatically "other" is Eva, heroine of Peter Dickinson's Eva (1988); the transplantation of her girl's brain into a chimpanzee's body without her knowledge raises questions about what it means to be confined in an alien body, like Blodeuwedd.
For Kindl, defamiliarizing the body, appropriating texts, and subverting the romance plot become liberating strategies that encourage the reader to participate actively in critiquing, and transforming the images and plots that delimit the adolescent female body whether in Seventeen or in fairy tales. Celebrating the struggle of girls to live in and with their physical bodies, her novels provide an antidote to representations of girls that depict them only as bodies of a certain shape, size, and skin color, as well as those that pretend that bodies do not matter.
1. Susie Orbach, in Hunger Strike: The Anorectic's Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age, also provides a feminist context for understanding eating disorders: "Whenever woman's spirit has been threatened, she has taken the control of her body as an avenue of self-expression. The anorectic refusal of food is only the latest in a series of woman's attempts at self-assertion which at some point have descended directly upon her body" (19).
2. Marina Warner has commented on the erotic and scatological connotations underlying the identification of geese with women in fairy tales.
3. Emily Martin discusses the interpretation of menstruation as pathological by male nineteenth-century writers in "Medical Meta- phors of Women's Bodies: Menstruation and Menopause."
4. In discussing the "rich mythology of hair as power" within the fairy tale tradition, Warner has noted the correlation of the heroine's luxuriant hair with "material wealth, literal gold and jewels and riches" (372, 378).
5. Nancy Springer revisits the Gorgon myth in her short story, "Becoming," whose heroine Dusie is a thirteen-year-old New Yorker who wakes one day to discover that she has a head of snakes and the power to turn boys into stone.
6. Intertextuality is not unique to feminist texts, although some critics have sought to identify specific ways in which feminist writers make use of intertextuality, as well as ways in which readers may utilize it as a feminist reading strategy. For a theoretical account, see Graham Allen.
7. Alan Dundes considers variant interpretations in his "The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife."
The trope recently resurfaced in Tony Bicat's 1991 BBC teleplay The Laughter of God. The plot revolves around an unhappily married couple, each of whom fantasizes about murdering the other. While digging the foundation for a new building, the husband, a contractor, discovers an ancient female skeleton, which he reburies. He then conceives a scheme to escape from his miserable marriage by luring his wife to the building site and entombing her in the foundation. Contrary to his plans, however, she is rescued and returns home.
8. Tim Wynne-Jones's "The Goose Girl" retells the tale from the point of view of the prince/king.
Goose Chase belongs to the flourishing genre of the feminist revisionist fairy tale, heralded by Angela Carter's influential The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), intended for an adult audience. Fiction for children and young adults includes Donna Jo Napoli's Magic Circle (1993), Zel (1996), and Beast (2000); Robin McKinley's Beauty (1978), Rose Daughter (1997), and Spindle's End (2000); Francesca Lia Block's The Rose and the Beast (2000); Priscilla Galloway's Truly Grim Tales (1995); and Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (1997). Jack Zipes's When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition (1999) is one of many books in which he discusses fairy tales as a vehicle of social, sexual, and political critique both in the past and today.
Allen, Graham. Intertextuality. London: Routledge, 2000.
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows. Boston: Little, 2001.
Bicat, Tony. The Laughter of God. Teleplay. BBC, 1991.
Block, Francesca Lia. The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
Bordo, Susan. "The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity." Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory. Ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. 90-110.
Boudreau, Brenda. "The Battleground of the Adolescent Girl's Body." The Girl: Constructions of the Girl in Contemporary Fiction by Women. Ed. Ruth Saxton. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. 43-56.
Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Random, 1997.
Butler, Judith. "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory. Ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. 401-17.
Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. New York: Harper, 1979.
Cosslett, Tess. "Intertextuality in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit: The Bible, Mallory, and Jane Eyre." "I'm Telling You Stories": Jeanette Winterson and the Politics of Reading. Ed. Helena Grice and Tim Woods. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1991. 15-28.
Dickinson, Peter. Eva. New York: Delacorte, 1988.
Dundes, Alan, "The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife." In The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook. Ed. Dundes. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996. 185-200.
Flake, Sharon G. The Skin I'm In. New York: Hyperion, 1988.
Galloway, Priscilla. Truly Grimm Tales. New York: Delacorte, 1995.
Gamallo, Isabel C. Anievas. "Subversive Storytelling: The Construction of Lesbian Girlhood through Fantasy and Fairy Tale in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit." The Girl: Constructions of the Girl in Contemporary Fiction by Women. Ed. Ruth Saxton. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. 119-34.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. 1892. Old Westbury, New York: Feminist, 1973.
Heiner, Heidi Anne. "The Annotated Goose Girl." SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages. 6 December 2001 <http://members.aol.com/haheiner/frytales/goosegrl/>.
Hughes, Monica. The Keeper of the Isis Light. New York: Atheneum, 1981.
Levine, Gail Carson. Ella Enchanted. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Kindl, Patrice. Goose Chase. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
———. Owl in Love. New York: Puffin, 1994.
———. The Woman in the Wall. New York: Puffin, 1997.
Klause, Annette Curtis. Blood and Chocolate. New York: Bantam, 1997.
Martin, Emily. "Medical Metaphors of Women's Bodies: Menstruation and Menopause." Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory. Ed. Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. 15-41.
McKinley, Robin. Beauty. New York: Harper, 1978.
———. Rose Daughter. New York: Greenwillow, 1997.
———. Spindle's End. New York: Putnam's, 2000.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Beast. New York: Atheneum, 2000.
———. Magic Circle. New York: Dutton, 1993.
———. Zel. New York: Dutton, 1996.
Orbach, Susie. Hunger Strike: The Anorectic's Struggle as a Metaphor for Our Age. New York: Norton, 1986.
Orr, Wendy. Peeling the Onion. New York: Holiday, 1996.
Springer, Nancy. "Becoming." Half-Human. Ed. Bruce Coville. New York: Scholastic, 2001. 1-17.
Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. New York: Farrar, 1994.
Wynne-Jones, Tim. "The Goose Girl." Black Thorn, White Rose. Ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. New York: Morrow, 1994. 151-72.
Zipes, Jack. When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition. New York: Routledge, 1999.
OWL IN LOVE (1993)
Publishers Weekly (review date 6 September 1993)
SOURCE: Review of Owl in Love, by Patrice Kindl. Publishers Weekly 240, no. 36 (6 September 1993): 98.
"I am Owl. It is my name as well as my nature," announces the droll heroine of this highly original first novel [Owl in Love ]. By night Owl, a shapeshifter, assumes her owl form, but by day she is an "ordinary girl (more or less)" who goes to high school. An everyday affliction overtakes her, however: she is in love with her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom. Kindl's first-person narration shifts expertly back and forth between the perspective of a bird and that of an adolescent misfit making the first attempts at human friendship. The reader takes flight with Owl as she hunts for mice and rabbits, moons around outside Mr. Lindstrom's window and savors the life of a free owl. Owl's love for Mr. Lindstrom is, of course, ill-fated but, in an ironic and superbly imagined twist, Owl is destined for a truly happy ending. Kindl's prose is remarkably even in its wit, one of many virtues in this tautly plotted and touching novel. Ages 10-14.
Kathryn Rowan (review date May-June 1994)
SOURCE: Rowan, Kathryn. Review of Owl in Love, by Patrice Kindl. Book Report 13, no. 1 (May-June 1994): 44.
Owl Tycho, age 14, can shapeshift from her human form into that of a barn owl at will [in Owl in Love ]. For hundreds of years, her family has produced shapeshifters capable of turning into birds of prey. Owl lives in a dilapidated mansion with her parents, witches who earn a living selling vegetables, herbal remedies and love potions to the local community and who are understanding of their daughter's dual nature. During the day, Owl attends high school in the form of a girl, but at night, in the form of a barn owl, she keeps a vigil on a tree limb outside the bedroom window of her science teacher, Mr. Lindstrom, who is unaware of Owl's infatuation for him. In turn, Owl is unaware that Mr. Lindstrom's son David is also a shapeshifter, but his condition has been diagnosed as mental illness. David's strangeness and his long-term hospitalization have destroyed his parents' marriage. David escapes from the hospital, and Owl sees him in the woods behind Mr. Lindstrom's house. At first, even Owl does not realize that the crazed owl crashing through the trees and the sick boy she names Houle are the same creature. At the end, with the help of Owl's human girl friend Dawn, Owl and Houle are able to explain to Mr. Lindstrom the truth about his son. As all with all barn owls, Owl and Houle know their relationship will last a lifetime. In this first novel, Kindl introduces a strong-willed, witty heroine that teens will appreciate. The fast-paced story is darkly humorous. Interspersed in the story line are quotations from Shakespeare, Browning and Lear. This should prove a popular addition to both school and public libraries. Recommended.
THE WOMAN IN THE WALL (1997)
Hazel Rochman (review date 15 March 1997)
SOURCE: Rochman, Hazel. Review of The Woman in the Wall, by Patrice Kindl. Booklist 93, no. 14 (15 March 1997): 1236.
Gr. 7-10—Anyone who has ever felt like fading into the woodwork will enjoy [The Woman in the Wall, ] this story about the withdrawal of an extremely shy child who retreats behind the walls of her family's large, dilapidated house and lives alone in her secret rooms until she is 14 years old. Then, lured by her attraction for a klutzy young man and terrified that her mother is about to sell the house, Anna finally comes out and faces the world. She is like a beautiful moth emerging from a cocoon, and the metaphor is spelled out: she is too large now for the narrow passage-ways of childhood. Just as Anna lives on the margins of the house, so this contemporary story is just on the edge of the surreal. The trouble is that Anna keeps insisting on explaining the facts in detail, so you can't help wondering about them. Where exactly does the child live? How does she know so much? And why does her mother give up looking for her? What makes you suspend disbelief is the authority of Anna's quirky, vulnerable narrative voice, which pulls you into a touching, dreamy story told with tender comedy.
Martha V. Parravano (review date July-August 1997)
SOURCE: Parravano, Martha V. Review of The Woman in the Wall, by Patrice Kindl. Horn Book Magazine 73, no. 4 (July-August 1997): 458-59.
Kindl's second novel [The Woman in the Wall ] is even more unclassifiable and intriguing than Owl in Love ; it drives eccentrically along in the land of metaphorical fiction, dips a couple of wheels into fantasy, and then heads for the home stretch as teen romance. Pathologically shy yet remarkably accomplished, Anna—"small and thin, with a face like a glass of water"—tends to fade into the background to the point of invisibility. So much so that (in the episode that takes the novel furthest into fantasy) seven-year-old Anna is accidentally scooped up by a brilliantly evoked giantess-esque school psychologist and almost carried away in the woman's purse. This harrowing experience propels Anna into drastic action: she begins to construct a living space for herself behind the walls of her twenty-two-room house (with its "thousands of square feet of unused, unnoticed, unneeded empty space") and virtually disappears from family life, becoming little more than a myth to her mother and sisters. Until, at age fourteen—having hit adolescence hard—she begins a chink-in-the-wall correspondence with an admirer of her older sister Andrea and falls in love. Threat of an impending move eventually impels Anna's emergence from inside the walls, and she appears at Andrea's Halloween party dressed as a "great, gaudy" luna moth—the antithesis of fading into the background. It's a challenging read, in that you have to suspend disbelief not just once at the beginning of the story, but several times, as the novel changes course. And it is somewhat disappointing to see Kindl's clever construction of Anna as human Borrower disappear into a rather run-of-the-mill Cinderella story. But the wit and craft of Kindl's prose keep pulling you back in, and her ability to sustain and elaborate on her central metaphor is impressive. Kindl's talent is as unmistakable as the transformed Anna at her literal "coming out" party.
GOOSE CHASE (2001)
Jeff Zaleski, Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton (review date 19 March 2001)
SOURCE: Zaleski, Jeff, Diane Roback, Jennifer M. Brown, and Jason Britton. Review of Goose Chase, by Patrice Kindl. Publishers Weekly 248, no. 12 (19 March 2001): 99.
Kindl (Owl in Love ) once again takes flight, this time proffering an engaging gaggle of a dozen geese and the orphaned Goose Girl who tends them [in Goose Chase ]. Eschewing a "once upon a time" opening, the spunky narrator sets the novel's tone: "What do I care for custom? 'Tis my own story I am telling and I will tell it as I please." Goose Girl addresses the audience from the high tower in which she is trapped by a king and prince (from dueling kingdoms), both of whom covet her hand, her golden tresses (which yield gold dust) and her tears (which turn to diamonds), not to mention her beauty—the latter three were gifts from a mysterious old woman to whom the girl showed some kindness. Luckily, her 12 charges evade the royals and organize their keeper's rescue. Kindl draws on a wealth of fairy tale lore to describe what follows. The geese deposit Goose Girl in a dilapidated cottage, where a trio of ogresses reside and promptly take her captive; the prince tracks her down, and Baba Yaga fans will recognize a few of the heroine's tricks that help her escape. Next, Goose Girl and the prince are cast into a dungeon belonging to an ally of the aforementioned king (that initial high tower of entrapment is not the only reference to Rapunzel—Goose Girl's hair here comes to her aid). Those familiar with the Brothers Grimm's "The Six Swans" may not be surprised by the ending, but it's how Kindl gets there, tying up all loose ends along the way, that will hold readers' attention. Ages 10-14.
Connie Tyrrell Burns (review date April 2001)
SOURCE: Burns, Connie Tyrrell. Review of Goose Chase, by Patrice Kindl. School Library Journal 47, no. 4 (April 2001): 141.
Gr. 6-9—When an orphaned Goose Girl gives bread to an old beggar woman [in Goose Chase ], the hag rewards her with a spell that makes her beautiful and rich, with her tears crystallizing into diamonds and gold dust falling from her hair. The desirable young woman then attracts a tyrannical king and a seemingly dim-witted prince, both of whom want to marry her. Determined to stay single, Alexandria Aurora Fortunato endures imprisonment in a tower; an escape that finds her in the valley of the grave-stealing, cannibalistic yet bumbling ogresses; and other dangers before she learns that she is a princess and that the 12 geese she tended are, in fact, her sisters. Her many adventures, while amusing, bog down the story a bit, leaving readers ready for a resolution. Still, Alexandria is a witty, feisty, no-nonsense feminist, and her tale is told with tongue in cheek and lots of laugh-out-loud humor. While the story bares only slight resemblance to the classic "Goose Girl," other tales are added to the mix: the girl's magical hair grows very long and she wears glass slippers. Kindl's writing is full of imagery and alliteration, and is peppered with old-fashioned and nonsense words that add to the fun. With its touch of romance, this coming-of-age story will appeal to teens who enjoy fantasy based on fairy tales.
LOST IN THE LABYRINTH (2002)
Paula Rohrlick (review date September 2002)
SOURCE: Rohrlick, Paula. Review of Lost in the Labyrinth, by Patrice Kindl. Kliatt 36, no. 5 (September 2002): 10.
Kindl, author of the YA novels Goose Chase, The Woman in the Wall, and Owl in Love, retells the ancient story of the maze and the Minotaur in this compelling tale [Lost in the Labyrinth ]. As she states in an Author's Note at the end, "This book is an attempt to reconcile the archeological findings with that myth," so the story differs in some ways from the traditional tale. For one, she has a queen rather than a king as the powerful ruler of Crete. Our heroine is the queen's gentle 14-year-old daughter, Xenodice, who loves animals, the handsome Icarus, and also her strange younger brother, who is half-man, half-bull, kept hidden in the depths of the Labyrinth under the palace. This brother is known as the Minotaur to the Athenians, who send seven sons and seven daughters to the queen every year, to compensate for the killing of the queen's son in Athens. This year, one of those Athenian sons is the brash hero Theseus, son of the Athenian king, who is determined to kill the Minotaur. Xenodice's imperious older sister, Ariadne, falls in love with Theseus, and betrayals ensue, resulting in terrible tragedies. This is a fine version of the story in its own right, as well as an excellent companion to any study of mythology and ancient history. Kindl's writing is both terse and poetic, with a wry humor and a deep understanding of character. A powerful version of the myth: for all libraries.
Anita L. Burkam (review date November-December 2002)
SOURCE: Burkam, Anita L. Review of Lost in the Labyrinth, by Patrice Kindl. Horn Book Magazine 78, no. 6 (November-December 2002): 760-61.
Daedalus and Icarus fled the labyrinth on Crete by taking wing, with well-known results; Theseus killed the Minotaur after tracing his way through the labyrinth following a thread given him by the princess Ariadne. Kindl employs these stories from Greek mythology as the framework for her novel [Lost in the Labyrinth ], taking on the perspective of Xenodice, Ariadne's younger sister. Loving her half-brother Asterius, the bull-like monster at the heart of the labyrinth, Xenodice does her best to protect him against Theseus's murderous "heroic" posturing, but she is ultimately powerless in the web of conspiracies and betrayals dividing her family. And because the inventor Daedalus and his son helped their fellow Athenian, Theseus, in the plot, they are sentenced to death—an outcome Xenodice can't abide. "When I was a small child," she says in her archaically formal first-person narration, "I determined that 1 would never marry if I could not have Icarus, son of Daedalus and Naucrate, as my husband, and so I think to this day." So she gives them the materials to escape and is a witness to Icarus's fall. The story has the trappings, though not the structure, of tragedy—the heroine is too sympathetic to possess a tragic flaw; her choices are overwhelmed by circumstances rather than by their own inherent weaknesses. What really engages the reader is the consistency of Kindl's ability to imagine what it would have been like for a princess on Crete to live in the labyrinthine Palace of Knossos, to love her family and to be in love with a slave, to try—and fail—to save those she loves, and to go on to live after that failure. Attentive to both archaeological detail and emotional probity, Kindl fleshes out the Minotaur myth's bare bones and brings it to life.
Del Negro, Janice M. Review of Lost in the Labyrinth, by Patrice Kindl. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 56, no. 3 (November 2002): 114.
Offers a mixed assessment of Lost in the Labyrinth, commenting that the "plot is too obviously structured."
Heppermann, Christine M. Review of Goose Chase, by Patrice Kindl. Horn Book Magazine 77, no. 4 (July-August 2001): 454.
Characterizes Goose Chase as a "farcical fairy tale."
Jones, Mike. Review of Goose Chase, by Patrice Kindl. Chronicle 25, no. 7 (August 2003): 49.
Praises Goose Chase as both "bright and enjoyable."
Additional coverage of Kindl's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 55; Contemporary Authors, Vol. 149; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 115; Literature Resource Center; and Something about the Author, Vols. 82, 128.