Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking
Aoibheann Sweeney
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Buy *Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking* by Aoibheann Sweeney online

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking
Aoibheann Sweeney
272 pages
June 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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This debut novel by Aiobheann Sweeney could've fallen into the typical formula of the coming-of-age story, but it manages not to. She instead develops a character who discovers a very different type of love and understanding that few other characters in such novels do.

Miranda Donnal is a toddler when her father and mother move to tiny, isolated Crab Island off the coast of Maine, where her father is focused on translating Ovid's Metamorphoses. Shortly after their arrival, Miranda's mother drowns in a boating accident, and Miranda is left alone with her father, a withdrawn but brilliant man who keeps to his books and his whiskey. She helps him with his translations of Ovid and loses herself in fantasies of what he reads her out of Metamorphoses.

A local fisherman, Mr. Blackwell, begins caring for the Donnals and ultimately becomes a father figure for Miranda, and her only friend. Mr. Blackwell's relationship with her father is shrouded in secrecy, and eventually they drift apart. Miranda grows up and graduates high school, and her father sends her off to New York City to work with his former colleagues at the Institute for Classical Studies. Once she arrives there, she begins to discover what her father's life was like before she was born.

While in New York, Miranda starts to break out of her isolation and loneliness, going through her own metamorphosis. Through her friends Nate and Ana, she has a sexual awakening, one that is painful for her to embrace at first since she is happiest eschewing convention. But her own sexuality helps her come to an understanding about both her father and mother, which opens her heart to love and happiness.

While the queer aspect of this book may not be for everyone, it doesn't overpower the story since it's not the novel's focus. It's an enjoyable read, and one that everyone can relate to, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Among Other Things is a subtle nod to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and deftly weaves Ovid's tales into Miranda's modern-day experiences. These re-worked old tales are given new life, making the novel richly layered in metaphor and meaning.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Karyn Johnson, 2007

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