PERRIN IRELAND - CHATTER // Click here to return to the home page
CHATTER, a novel by Perrin Ireland
Books & Other Writing

Chatter

Reviews and Praise

"The protagonist of Ireland's second novel is herself a writer, at work on a book about 'the intersection of humor and terror . . . Or, if you prefer, about a man and a woman and another woman.' And that's what Ireland is writing about too. The fictional author is Sarah, whose husband (her second) of 18 years discovers he has a daughter from his Peace Corps years in Latin America. Enter terror No.1. 'Everyone knew,' Sarah argues, 'that the primary reason second marriages fail was because of children from previous relationships. If we were on a sinking boat, who would you save?' Interspersed with such terrors of the heart are the trivial pursuits of everyday life and the contemporary American preoccupation with another species of horror—the beheading and bombing kind—all of which emerge through the constant chatter of hasty encounters and overheard conversations: "'It's behind the mayonnaise jar,' a man said into his cellphone. "'There are 13 hostages,' a woman said into her phone.'" So where exactly is this humor-terror nexus that Ireland so charmingly brings to life? It seems to lie somewhere on the plane of the absurd, which is cut by a horizontal axis of evil and a vertical axis of the mundane." — Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review

" . . . the novel's touch is light, the dialogue funny. . . Still, the novel is more than merely clever. Ireland treats her characters with tenderness, portraying how they experience the world, and ultimately holding out a note of hope. She wrings meaning from the slightest of gestures . . . Sarah wins our sympathy, as an everywoman seeking, against the odds, a place of safety and comfort." — The Boston Globe

"Perrin Ireland . . . has created a wonderful novel that balances humor and terror, growing apart and finding the way back. She has a deft touch and a great ear for dialogue, delivering complex and memorable characters." — Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier

"A novel that's more than just chat . . . Chatter raises readers' consciousness . . . Humor and irony also shape the text, and the book's last sentences—reminiscent of Kentuckian Bobbie Ann Mason's deceptively simple prose—balance pain with promise. 'Michael turned to Sarah," Ireland writes. "'She leaned in to hear.'" — Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal

" . . . this eloquent and beautifully written novel." — DC/Baltimore/Virginia Examiner

"After a career at the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ireland published her debut novel, Ana Imagined, in 2000, and follows it with this intriguing, sophisticated look at talk in marriage." — Publishers Weekly

"Hints of an immediate post-9/11 world . . . brilliantly frames Sarah and Michael's world . . . It's a lot to juggle, but Ireland (Ana Imagined), who keeps readers engaged even while making clear that not every question has an answer, is more than up to the task. Strongly recommended." — Library Journal

"Good writing. . . Lots to think about. This one's a natural for the book group." — Litchfield (CT) Enquirer

"As the story of Michael and Sarah, a middle-aged couple whose marriage is challenged by the appearance of a daughter Michael never knew he had, evolves, the slice-of-life plot is bolstered by the almost omniscient television and radio reports chronicling the political and cultural fallout of a landscape steeped in the tensions generated by the ever-present threat of global terrorism. When the quirky, dialogue-heavy narrative is read between the lines, an eventually affirmative portrait of a modern relationship resonates with hidden depths." — Booklist

"For years, Perrin Ireland was a senior program officer for the NEA and associate director for drama and arts for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting before reinventing herself as a novelist in 2000 with the acclaimed Ana Imagined. Her new novel, Chatter (Algonquin Books), makes clear again what a sound career switch she made. Reading Chatter is not unlike using the television remote to flip back and forth between a compelling hour-long dramedy and CNN; it's a dark romantic comedy punctuated by bursts of post-9/11 chatter, a novel that conjures the discomforting way news flashes and other bits of information peck at our psyches every day. . . . Ireland's clever, believable voice expertly conveys the uncertainty of life and love, at home and in the terror-crazed world." — More Magazine

"When I picked up Perrin Ireland's Chatter I wasn't familiar with her writing. I hadn't read her first novel, Ana Imagined (although I imagine I will now) and... had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn't expect to find a novel that I would end up not only enjoying enormously, but also one that I found extraordinarily affecting. Ireland is a smart and gifted writer, and it shows on every page....you're in for a treat." — Nancy Pearl, NPR

" . . . Ireland has turned the rules around . . . creating a fresh and engrossing way to cut through the chatter with engrossing honesty and compassion. The result is a brilliant exercise in getting to the heart of the matter." — (Maryland's) Star-Democrat

". . . Perrin Ireland follows her bold debut, Ana Imagined, with the aptly titled Chatter, a particularly germane book in our post-9/11 world . . . captivating and unflinchingly on point." — Charleston Magazine

"Perrin Ireland's first novel, Ana Imagined, garnered acclaim for examining the possibilities and limits of compassion and endurance . . . Ireland, a former executive in the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, brings a similarly intelligent and imaginative point of view to Chatter . . ." — The Providence Journal

". . . the smart and feisty second novel from Perrin Ireland. . .talks its way into a thorny conversation about how we live right now. . . . Perrin is too savvy to throw us headlong into cliche. Early on, she telegraphs her promise that the scenes from this particular marriage will be anything but typical. Characters speak, well, the way we actually speak . . . Ireland's got a great ear . . . She gives Sarah a quirky sense of humor and leavens things with slice-of-life scenes we easily recognize. . . . Throughout, Ireland has hinted at her wish for a happy ending, and she doesn't let us down." — Veronique de Turenne for Barnes and Noble

"A talented writer, gifted at squeezing out the delicate little details of relationships, particularly of marriages. . . .There is much to enjoy in Chatter: the dialogue between Sarah and Michael, which seems a very pure distillation of a marriage's own "chatter"; the clean, precise descriptive voice; the skilled building of momentum and suspense. . . . [Ireland has a] clear-eyed curiosity about the inhabitants of the fragile American bubble." — Washington City Paper

"Perrin Ireland's smart, witty new novel is full of the best kind of surprises. With a light touch and an experienced woman's wisdom, she explores human frailties, domestic and international crises, the deeply personal, and the darkly political.' — Elizabeth Benedict, author of The Practice of Deceit

"Smartly plotted and stylishly paced, Perrin Ireland's Chatter shows us just how the domestic and the political are entangled.  The novel is alert with suspicion and heightened surmise; it gives us a bright Doppler reading of the way we live now." — Sven Birkerts

"Ireland masterfully crisscrosses the public with the private to wring meaning from the simplest exchanges ... Chatter is a consoling and hopeful novel in its vision of man's compassionate, resilient nature." — Christine Schutt, author of National Book Award finalist Florida

"An extremely well-written novel that conceals its profundities so deftly that they insist on returning long after you have finished reading. A wonderful book. " — Brian O'Doherty, Booker Prize finalist for The Depostion of Father McGreevy

Join the Mailing List

If you would like to receive (very occasional) e-mail messages from Perrin, please enter your e-mail address into the space below and click "Subscribe."