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20050625

Summer Reading

It is not often that I’m asked to promote a book, especially by a writer who has recently had her first book published. Such as it was, though, that I received an invitation by email to do just that.

Jackpot Tsipi Keller
Spuyten Duyvil 2004
ISBN 0-9720662-1-7
224 pages

I was reluctant at first because I was five days away from starting my trip out to California, but I did manage to get a copy to read, and I have to say it’s an astonishingly impressive work.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

A Bahamian vacation turns into a nightmarish dreamworld in Tsipi Keller's smart, sly Jackpot. Maggie has long been cowed by her beautiful friend Robin, so when Robin leaves Paradise Island for a spur-of-the-moment sailing trip, Maggie has a chance to shine. Instead, she descends into wild gambling and even wilder sex, though she somehow retains her innocence. Keller expertly charts Maggie's transformation in this accomplished and oddly gripping novel.

Other reviews are equally favorable:

This marvelously engaging and pleasurable novel is like a cross between watching a sly Eric Rohmer film about the spiritual crisis of vacation and reading a Jean Rhys interior monologue of a woman in extremis. For all its horrific aspects, it has a steady undercurrent of humor: the comedy derives from showing the precise mechanisms of low self-esteem, rationalization and self-indulgence. A wickedly readable,psychologically astute and drolly knowing fiction. Phillip Lopate

Keller’s new novel, Jackpot, has the characteristics of something created by a linguistic survivor. In simple, precise yet enticing prose, it tells the story of a conflict between social convention and raw, dangerous appetite. Like a speaker of two languages, it exists on two levels: one appropriate and familiar, the other foreign and disturbing. Such a structure mirrors the immigrant experience. On the surface it is decorous, appropriate, and earnest; on another, muffled plane, all is anguish and confusion. Bruce Benderson

This book is not easy to put down once you begin to read it. You really begin to care about the book’s main character, Maggie, and at times you feel like a parent to a child who somehow seems to have to make all the wrong choices before making that one choice that finally breaks the spell of self-destruction. Keller’s prose is taut, concise, and at times mesmerizing in her account of Maggie’s “fall from grace.”

S. L. Cunningham