Imaginary Crimes (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Sheila Ballantyne’s first novel, Norma Jean the Termite Queen (1975), deals with liberation from the confining roles of wife and mother. Her second novel, Imaginary Crimes, deals with liberation from painful relationships with parents. In both books, the female protagonists are nearly overwhelmed by the past before they gain strength enough to move beyond it. In fact, each of Ballantyne’s books tells a different segment of the same story, the one which fascinates so many contemporary women writers: the story of coming to terms with the past, of becoming a creator, a “woman of my own. . . . alive, and separate, and moving on.” What distinguishes Ballantyne’s work from that of her colleagues is the archaeological quality of her characters’ examination of the past. In Norma Jean the Termite Queen, Ballantyne draws heavily on anthropology and ancient history to inform her protagonist’s struggle toward a new self-definition. In Imaginary Crimes, Ballantyne’s central character, Sonya Weiler, is an archaeologist of her own emotions, sifting through layers of experience to reach the complicated truth of her feelings toward her parents. Sonya’s “artifacts,” collected in albums and manila envelopes and cardboard boxes, are family pictures—data which are, by themselves, inconclusive, but which Sonya eventually assembles into a coherent and moving whole.
Sonya’s history begins in a tiny basement apartment...
(The entire section is 1905 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Library Journal. CVII, February 15, 1982, p. 471.
Ms. X, May, 1982, p. 71.
Nation. CCXXXIV, February 27, 1982, p. 249.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, February 21, 1982, p. 1.
The New Yorker. LVIII, April 5, 1982, p. 197.
Newsweek. XCIX, February 22, 1982, p. 74.
(The entire section is 32 words.)