“The three generations of women in this book are connected by shared trauma and also by Fraser’s insightful storytelling. The book moves elegantly between narrators and through time, and addresses the far-reaching consequences of alcoholism and childhood abuse with intensity, balanced by a gentle touch for the subtleties of family dynamics.”
–Tim Boomer, New York Times Modern Love column and podcast contributor
“Long Division is as much about the treacherous but essential landscape of love as it is about the narrative webs we often spin to survive and then must find a way to dismantle.”
–Tehila Lieberman, winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for short fiction and author of Venus in the Afternoon
“Long Division is a touching, subtly poignant, and unflinching take on the ties that bind mothers and daughters… and often unmake them.”
–Nicole Galland, author of On The Same Page
From Wellfleet Marketplace Booksellers
My brother, a psychologist who specialized in family therapy, used to talk about the unintentional legacy of family patterns, how the sins of the parents are not just visited on subsequent generations, they’re often repeated by them. I think Mike would have really appreciated this new novel by Sara Fraser for that reason as well as others. Sara is an immensely talented writer whose short stories I’ve enjoyed over the years. This is her debut novel and I like that so many publishers these days are introducing new writers with paperback originals, making it more affordable to sample an unknown voice. Partially set on the Cape, Long Divisioncenters on three generations of women. Leigh Fortune has just learned that her estranged mother, whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in years has died. She’s also dealing with an aging grandmother who cared for Leigh after her own mother abandoned her and is now a far from content resident of Walnut Acres Municipal Nursing Home. Leigh is also supposed to be getting married. To Mark, who she describes as a Good Man. “And I do love him. He’s good and stable and reliable. He could be better than that or worse. Or maybe he’s both. He’s my dream man, the perfect compliment, and he’s also the dark heavy blanket that’s going to smother me if I let him.” So Leigh is about to make a huge life commitment, something that has never worked out very well for her mother or her grandmother. Can it work for her? I loved this insightful, moving, brilliant novel, reminiscent of Meg Wolitzer’s novels.
–Stephen Russell, Wellfleet Marketplace Booksellers
A family’s dysfunctional history is revealed as a grandmother keeps a close eye on her nursing home and a granddaughter prepares for a marriage she is unsure about.
This debut novel blends the stories of Gertrude Littlefield, 94 years old and resident of a Lynn, Massachusetts, nursing home, and her granddaughter Leigh Fortune. Gertrude keeps a close eye on the other residents of her nursing home—and particularly on the growing flirtation between two of the staff members—while a series of flashbacks tells the story of her marriage to Clive and their separation before the birth of their daughter, Beverly. Leigh, Beverly’s daughter, is an accountant engaged to Mark, a man she gradually realizes is not right for her. When she checks Gertrude’s mail, Leigh learns that Beverly, an alcoholic who abandoned her children with Gertrude decades earlier, has just died, and as the reader sees how things repeat themselves from one generation to the next, Leigh slowly makes sense of how her relationships with both Gertrude and Beverly (“My experience of my mother was that she never knew the date, never mind bothering to put it on a letter”) have left her immature and also self-sabotaging, not yet ready to be part of a stable marriage. By the time the characters gather for Gertrude’s funeral in the book’s final pages, Leigh has connected with Beverly’s friend Simon, who shares stories about a sober, grounded woman very different from the irresponsible alcoholic Leigh knew. Simon’s undemanding friendship and Beverly’s personal growth give Leigh space to develop her own maturity. The novel is both quiet, focused on domestic moments and small details, and melodramatic, full of infidelity (“From not cheating to cheating feels like the tiniest little step, practically unavoidable”), bad parenting, and strong emotions. Fraser has an excellent sense of place, and her Cape Cod and North Shore settings are alive with detail. While readers may feel that some plot points are too clearly foreshadowed, the book’s events on the whole come together to form a coherent, engaging story with a satisfying resolution.
A troubled woman makes peace with her family in this well-written and introspective novel.
LONG DIVISION is a multi-generational tale of dysfunction and hope echoing from grandmother, to mother, to daughter.
Intergeneration storytelling is not a new framing device, but that does not take away from the poignancy that the multiple perspectives can build. LONG DIVISION is such a novel that takes full advantage of its structure while following a damaged woman digging through her family’s past to find understanding in her own life.
The role of narrator switches between Leigh Fortune and her ninety four year old grandmother, Gertrude Littlefield. What’s missing in this familial chain is Leigh’s mother, Beverly, an alcoholic who had offloaded her daughter into Gertrude’s care when Leigh was just a child. Decades later, now an adult, Leigh has taken it upon herself to keep track of her elderly grandmother’s mail. One day, she receives a letter addressed to Gertrude, written by an unfamiliar man, announcing that Beverly has passed away.
From there, half of the novel follows Gertrude. Stuck in a nursing home, she spends her time eavesdropping on the staff to alleviate her boredom. Her flashbacks are littered throughout the novel as she tries to unravel her role within Beverly’s downward spiral. The other half is with Leigh, examining the cracks in her personhood left from the impact of her deeply flawed mother, who herself was raised by a less than perfect parent. Despite Beverly only appearing through memories, her presence is constant through the mother and daughter she left behind and she holds her own as the third protagonist. The storytelling is incredibly human and honest, exploring how a person can be blinded by their own intentions.
While there are no real unexpected turns or surprises within the plot, the prose is strong and engaging. Leigh’s difficulty in finding grief for her mother, Gertrude facing her regrets in her old age, and Leigh’s misgivings towards her upcoming marriage, LONG DIVISION weaves between several facets of the characters’ lives but gives each a good amount of time to develop. Descriptors are unique and thoughtful, drawing from domestic familiarities to pull the reader beside the narrator. The ugly snags and tender moments in marriage, divorce, child-rearing, and mental health are written in rich imagery and colorful metaphors. The characters’ arcs carry great weight as the story never shies away from their pain.
LONG DIVISION is a novel whose fluid narration and rich imagery carries a story that is deeply personal to its characters but universal in its themes.
~Yi Zou for IndieReader
From J.L. Cole Books
Three women, three generations, intertwined together by the choices they made.
Long Division by Sarah B.Fraser was a delightful, character-driven read. It’s about three women of different generations but same family, and how their life choices affect one another. It was one of those stories you just fall into and easily connect with. I especially loved the one perspective from an elderly lady named Getrude. hroughout the book you get to know Gertrude as a young woman, but you first meet her in an old folks’ home nearing the end of her life. I found her perspective very interesting and she quickly became my favourite character in the book.
The other main character is her granddaughter, Leigh, who is on the verge of getting married but unable to find peace within herself. Haunted by her terrible upbringing and the emotional scars left on hr by her parents, she strays away from her sensible routine and decisions in order to try and find some peace when she learns of the death of her estranged mother.
Then there is Beverly, Leigh’s mom and Gertrude’s daughter. We don’t get to see her perspective as in depth as the others, but slowly you do get to find out more about her and how she ended up where she did.
It’s a story about family, heartbreak and finding peace amongst life’s broken pieces. The ending is left a little bit open, which I thought fitting for this kind of novel. It’s like they are real people and their story is still being written, not just tied up neatly with a bow.
From New England Book Critic:
Long Division is a powerful story about three generations of women who share the same bloodline and their inability to deal with their past, has inadvertently affected one another. Gertrude, a ninety- two years old woman, lives in the Long Division Senior home and lives every day with the regret of never forgiving her ex-husband of his infidelities. Beverly, Gertrude’s daughter, hides behind a bottle of whiskey and meanless sex. Leigh, Beverly’s daughter, was raped by her mother’s boss and later abandoned by her mother. Recently engaged to her boss, who she doesn’t love, Leigh must learn to forgive her past or end up following the same destructive pattern of her mother and grandmother.
From Authors Reading:
Long Division, by Sara B. Fraser, is an in-depth, introspective look into the lives of her three main characters, representing three generations of a dysfunctional family. Readers will relate to the subtle family dynamics as each character’s backstory comes alive and intertwines. Fraser narrates a world that encompasses both the cultivated and the corrupt. She interjects into the story the full range of human folly and misery – divorce, illness, alcoholism, betrayal, jealousy, and more. She doesn’t shy away from portraying her characters at their lowest ebb, as they recognize that time has been lost and that beauty and even the meaning of so much of what they once pursued has irretrievably faded away.
Gertrude is a 94-year-old grandmother confined to bed in a nursing home. She is conscious of her surroundings, and her interest in people is apparent as she tries to interact with the staff. Her lack of close family keeps her in a state of living in the past. She loves most of the memories. She remembers how her little daughter made the shape of a church steeple with her hands. She “weaves bony fingers into a steeple. Opens the door, there are the people” with osteoporosis and arthritis to keep them from wiggling. Reminiscing, she relives many of her mistakes as a young woman and wonders what she could have done differently. Could she have changed the fates of her daughter and granddaughter if she had taken a different path?
Leigh, Gertrude’s 30 something granddaughter, struggles with her own memories. Memories of a distant, alcoholic mother, abuse, and abandonment. She grapples with her immature ability to be true to herself, to take necessary actions, and to face mature decisions. She is engaged to a self-centered man who she has allowed to take over her life. Can her struggles with the meaning of love and family enable her to overcome the destructive patterns in her life?
Beverly is the almost silent estranged catalyst in the middle. Gertrude’s daughter and Leigh’s mother, Beverly’s self -destructive lifestyle, seems to be a poison that affects both grandmother and daughter.
Narrated alternately through the voices of Gertrude, Beverly, and Leigh with appropriate flashbacks, the reader is drawn into the complex storyline. Each character is distinctive and relatable. The reader will sympathize with each woman as the consequences of their immature decisions shape their future.
Fraser’s ability to bring a character to life is evident in her description of Clive as he lay dying. His face was “sunken like someone had wrapped it in Saran wrap and pulled.” She also has embedded bits of wisdom as to when she writes that “jealousy is supposed to work like hypochondria.” Imagining the worst-case scenario as a way to prevent it from happening.
Readers will long remember the trials of all three women and how Leigh was able to forgive her past and to forgive the mistakes of others.
Fraser fuses and transmutes the lives of her characters so that there is significance in their existence. Long Division is narrated in beautifully told interweaving storylines, where the past and present come together in a nuanced, heartfelt drama about everyday people living everyday lives.
Reviewed by: Carole W