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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bring Me One of Everything by Leslie Hall Pinder

Bring Me One of Everything was an ARC from Grey Swan Press.  Book Description:

"Bring Me One of Everything is a novel which weaves real-life facts and fiction into an eloquent tale of suspense and intrigue. The title of the book is based on what the management of the Smithsonian is said to have demanded when sending ethnographers to native villages to gather artifacts for its collection: "Bring me one of everything." The novel is several layered stories centered around a troubled writer, Alicia Purcell, who has been commissioned to create the libretto for an opera about an anthropologist named Austin Hart. He earned fame in the 1950s for cutting down and bringing back to museums the largest remaining stand of totem poles in the world. They belonged to the Haida tribes who inhabit the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. Hart's subsequent suicide creates the mystery Alicia attempts to solve as she consults present-day tribe members, Hart's friends and family, and his personal journals. Added to the complications of her search are Alicia's imperious though ailing mother, a cast-off lover, a narcissistic composer, and her own demons of disaffection. But an overarching question dogs her and the reader: why she is so obsessed with Austin Hart and this quest?"

Leslie Hall Pinder's writing is a poetic examination of several themes:  the role (and ethics) of museums in acquiring Native Indian artifacts, parent/child relationships, suicide, betrayals and reconciliations, and Haida myth and culture.  The novel is at least partially inspired by the life of Wilson Duff, the Canadian anthropologist who became immersed in the world of Haida art and culture and eventually committed suicide.

Alix Purcell must examine the life of Austin Hart who, like the real-life Wilson Duff, becomes obsessive in his study of the Haida, and who also commits suicide. In her pursuit of background on Hart for the libretto she has been commissioned to write, Alix  must confront her own youthful intention to end her life which was thwarted by a strange, almost prescient phone call from her mother, a distant and dominating presence during Alix's youth.  

Now in her forties, Alix must re-examine and re-work her relationship with her ailing mother as she researches the material for her libretto.  Although she was "no longer host to the suicide visitor" that her mother had banished when Alix was 18, her fascination with and need to understand the reasons for Hart's suicide becomes consuming.  She feels a distinct connection to Austin Hart and a compulsion to decipher his reasons for his ending his own life.

Fiction.  Psychological.  2012.  331 pages.


  1. I have ordered this meanwhile and hope to read it soon.

  2. I hope you enjoy it! I had some ambivalent feelings...I liked her poetic language and found some of the novel very interesting, but had some reservations, too.

  3. Reading your post I actually had a feeling you were a bit disappointed as you don't mention how you liked it. I'm extremely interested in the topic, so I'm looking forward to read it but I expect it to be a bit flawed.