Prose about Rose

“The Rose Variations” explores sexual liberation and cut-throat musical ambition.

PHOTO COURTESY SOHO PRESS

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY SOHO PRESS

âÄúThe Rose VariationsâÄù Author: Marisha Chamberlain Publisher: SoHo Press Pages: 352 Price: $24 The search for oneself is a never-ending process of trial and error. Marisha Chamberlain, a resident of Hastings, Minn., and author of the recent novel âÄúThe Rose Variations,âÄù says lives are âÄúmayhem âĦ [and filled with] tremendous careeningâÄù during which we grapple with lost luck, disloyalty and disregarded ambition. The novelâÄôs protagonist is Rose MacGregor, a talented musician who has recently moved to St. Paul on appointment to teach music and compose at Macalester University. The novel is filled with RoseâÄôs sexual exploration and the destructive search for herself. A dedicated artist, Chamberlain has been a freelance playwright, poet and composer by trade for many years. âÄúThe Rose VariationsâÄù is her first novel, and it is in many ways constructed like a free-verse prose poem, rhythmic, experimental and fast-paced. Though the story moves at surprising speed, the reader isnâÄôt left without reflection. Each chapter closes with philosophizing about of RoseâÄôs decisions. At one point, Rose finds herself single again, but muses, âÄúWhat was solitude but an absence, a lack? Really, it was nothing at all.âÄù Rose finds herself testing the limits of relationships, falling deeply into love then stumbling out time and again. The heroine falls into a sweeping romantic relationship with a stone mason, plays nanny to her abrasive, pregnant sister, moves into a farmhouse commune, tests the limits of her sexuality by experimenting with lesbianism and becomes a nationally acclaimed composer in just the first few pages of the book. Chamberlain, who studied under the late Raymond Carver, says that the process of a young womanâÄôs development in todayâÄôs world âÄúneeded to be written, and deserved the attention of literary fiction.âÄù In constructing the characters, Chamberlain doesnâÄôt hide the fact that sheâÄôs incorporated much of herself into Rose, âÄúI am sharing the best stuff and the worst stuff about my experience.âÄù She made an effort to âÄúexpose [RoseâÄôs] mistakes without being too distant in the way that IâÄôve rendered them, or too close.âÄù Her depiction of St. Paul is beautiful and true to form, presenting the rolling hills and calm, worn-out roadways. Early in the book, Rose travels to Minneapolis, which is depicted as a lively haven for German filmmakers and flirty silver foxes. At times uncomfortably probing, surprisingly up-tempo and heart-wrenchingly honest, âÄúThe Rose VariationsâÄù provides a chance to experience an entirely intimate tale of life in the Twin Cities.