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II SKr 77ie Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood Doubleday, 2000, 521 pp., $26 MargaretAtwood's latest novel, 77? Blind Assassin, is a mesmerizing tale of the Chase family. The multigenerational story of power, wealth, love and secrecy features a story within a story within a story, where each layer carefully unfolds, revealing the truth about the Chase family. Atwood moves freely between the three plot lines, beginning with Iris Chase, the elderly narrator, who tells her family history, leading up to hersister Laura's suicide. Laura's death has already been revealed by the novel's haunting opening: "Ten days after the war sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." Iris' narrative is intermingled with newspaper cUppings and chapters of Laura's posthumously published novel, also titled The Blind Assassin, in which two young lovers, a wealthy woman of high society and a poUtical rebel on the run, engage in a clandestine love affair. The unnamed lovers meet in seedy hotels and borrowed apartments, where they teU stories in between their bouts of lovemaking, creating the third plot line, a science fiction tale about a place called Zycron. In Zycron, child slaves who become blind from weaving carpets go on to become assassins who sacrifice and mutilate mute and tongueless women. Atwood adds dimension to her novel through this sci-fi parable that draws parallels between gender and social issues in the fictional Zycron and the real Port Tlconderoga, where the Chases live. When Laura's book is published and labeled obscene, she becomes a posthumous icon with a cult following . Iris, who is subtly sardonic yet charming, Uves in her younger sister's shadow. In one memorable scene, Iris goes to visit her grave and finds a fan digging up dirt to take home. As the three stories come together, Atwood proves that things may not be exactly as they seem. The final plot twist will make readers look back and reread previous sections for the clues thatAtwood deftly places throughout the narrative. In the end, it's the truth that matters most, though as Iris says, the truth is hard to tell. Having lived a lifetime of regret, she decides to set the record straight, telling her readers, "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down wiU never be read." (MS) Among the Missing by Dan Chaon Ballantine Books, 2001, 272 pp., $22 Nights when I need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, short-story The Missouri Review ยท 203 ...


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