Award-winning author, Mary Otis of Yes, Yes, Cherries ("Funny, brave, and amazing" --Lorrie Moore) delivers an arresting debut novel that explores the relationship complexities between mothers and daughters, the desire to escape, and the longing to connect. Burst is a powerful story about how we become--and unbecome--our mothers, how we absorb the past, and how we burst into our own futures.
Viva has always found ways to manage her mother's impulsive, eccentric, and addictive personality. She's had to--for her entire life, it has always been Viva and Charlotte against the world. After accidentally discovering an innate ability for dance, Viva chases her new passion with the same fervor with which her mother chases the bottle. Over the years, Viva's talent becomes a ticket to a life of her own, and as she moves further away from home to pursue her dream, Charlotte struggles to make peace with her own past as a failed artist and the effects of her addiction. When tragedy strikes, Viva begins a downward spiral and must decide whether she will repeat her mother's mistakes or finally take control of her life.
Told from interwoven perspectives with lyrical writing as deft as a choreographed dance, Burst excavates a mother-daughter relationship to reveal its gorgeous beating heart.
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About the Author
Mary Otis is the author of the short story collection Yes, Yes, Cherries. Her fiction, essays, and poetry have been published in Best New American Voices, Electric Literature, Tin House, Zyzzyva, McSweeney's, Bennington Review, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. She has taught fiction at UCLA and was a founding professor in the UC Riverside Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program. Originally from the Boston area, Mary lives in Los Angeles.
Selected by Publisher's Marketplace as a Buzz Book for Spring/Summer 2023
"In lyrical language that expresses both Viva's and Charlotte's perspectives, Otis portrays a mother and daughter caught in a tense pas de deux, perpetually pushing one another away before returning to each other. This author continues to impress."
"Mary Otis delivers a psychologically acute vision of a mother and daughter and their haunting waltz in which allegiance, dreams of escape, the desire for dignity and the urge for self-destruction play their part in a dance that spreads over three decades. A powerful debut."
--Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and The Revolution of Marina M.
"A profound, propulsive exploration of what it means to be a mother, a daughter, an artist, and an addict. A transfixing, singular evocation of the precarious, terrifying predicament that constitutes being a woman alone in the world. BURST made me think deeply about my own choices and compulsions and changed, forever, the way I see myself and the world."
--Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age
"Mary Otis is so gifted at giving us two full and complicated women in this captivating novel, allowing each her brokenness and her dignity. Plus, the gorgeous writing about dance! I was making a list in my head of readers I want to give it to."
--Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and The Butterfly Lampshade
"When it comes to stories of mothers and daughters, Mary Otis's Burst is up there with Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here and Elizabeth Strout's Amy & Isabelle. Otis writes with complexity and heart. We are all richer and wiser after reading her work."
--Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar and We Are Each Other's Harvest
"Beautifully written, propulsive, and utterly transcendent, this is a mother-daughter story for the ages."
--J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota
"Burst is a wallop of a novel--it is about risk and pleasure, the way a body or mind can feel like a boundless possibility and a small prison, the way a mother and daughter set loose in the world can make everything shine, even if the shiny things also have teeth."
--Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and Awayland
"The mysterious bond that occurs between troubled mothers and their daughters has been written about endlessly, but almost never with such perfectly-modulated electricity, such humor and deep wisdom, such enveloping-but utterly unsentimental-tenderness. Burst is a taut, economical novel that nonetheless contains multitudes. Its interrogations of what we owe ourselves and one another, how we love our parents and struggle to escape their shadows, and how we reconcile our dreams with our disappointments, is wonderful indeed."
--Matthew Specktor, author of Always Crashing in the Same Car and American Dream Machine
"Mary Otis writes about the ineffable--the high of being a dancer, the terrible closeness of mothers and daughters--with clarity, soul, and grace. BURST is a radiant first novel, its characters impossible to forget in their individual vividness and their complicated love for one another."
--Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Likes and Madeline is Sleeping
"I knew from the first few lines that I was in with this book for the duration. Well-observed and propulsive, Mary Otis makes the reader acutely aware of consequences--both short and long term--and plays them out masterfully."
--Keith Mosman, Powell's Books