Award-winning author, Mary Otis of Yes, Yes, Cherries (“Funny, brave, and amazing” —Lorrie Moore) delivers an arresting debut novel that explores the relationship complexities between mothers and daughters, the desire to escape, and the longing to connect. Burst is a powerful story about how we become—and unbecome—our mothers, how we absorb the past, and how we burst into our own futures.
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Viva has always found ways to manage her mother’s impulsive, eccentric, and addictive personality. She’s had to—for her entire life, it has always been Viva and Charlotte against the world. After accidentally discovering an innate ability for dance, Viva chases her new passion with the same fervor with which her mother chases the bottle. Over the years, Viva’s talent becomes a ticket to a life of her own, and as she moves further away from home to pursue her dream, Charlotte struggles to make peace with her own past as a failed artist and the effects of her addiction. When tragedy strikes, Viva begins a downward spiral and must decide whether she will repeat her mother’s mistakes or finally take control of her life.
Told from interwoven perspectives with lyrical writing as deft as a choreographed dance, Burst excavates a mother-daughter relationship to reveal its gorgeous beating heart.
Selected by Publisher’s Marketplace as a Buzz Book for Spring/ Summer 2023.
“In lyrical language that expresses both Viva’s and Charlotte’s perspectives, Otis portrays a mother and daughter caught in a tense pas de deux, perpetually pushing one another away before returning to each other. This author continues to impress.”
“A new spin on the theme of entwined mothers and daughters."
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What people are saying...
“Mary Otis delivers a psychologically acute vision of a mother and daughter and their haunting waltz in which allegiance, dreams of escape, the desire for dignity and the urge for self-destruction play their part in a dance that spreads over three decades. A powerful debut.”
“When it comes to stories of mothers and daughters, Mary Otis's Burst is up there with Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here and Elizabeth Strout's Amy & Isabelle. Otis writes with complexity and heart. We are all richer and wiser after reading her work.”
“The mysterious bond that occurs between troubled mothers and their daughters has been written about endlessly, but almost never with such perfectly-modulated electricity, such humor and deep wisdom, such enveloping–but utterly unsentimental–tenderness. Burst is a taut, economical novel that nonetheless contains multitudes. Its interrogations of what we owe ourselves and one another, how we love our parents and struggle to escape their shadows, and how we reconcile our dreams with our disappointments, is wonderful indeed.”
“A profound, propulsive exploration of what it means to be a mother, a daughter, an artist, and an addict. A transfixing, singular evocation of the precarious, terrifying predicament that constitutes being a woman alone in the world. BURST made me think deeply about my own choices and compulsions and changed, forever, the way I see myself and the world.”
“Beautifully written, propulsive, and utterly transcendent, this is a mother-daughter story for the ages.”
"Mary Otis writes about the ineffable—the high of being a dancer, the terrible closeness of mothers and daughters—with clarity, soul, and grace. BURST is a radiant first novel, its characters impossible to forget in their individual vividness and their complicated love for one another."
“Mary Otis is so gifted at giving us two full and complicated women in this captivating novel, allowing each her brokenness and her dignity. Plus, the gorgeous writing about dance! I was making a list in my head of readers I want to give it to."
“Burst is a wallop of a novel—it is about risk and pleasure, the way a body or mind can feel like a boundless possibility and a small prison, the way a mother and daughter set loose in the world can make everything shine, even if the shiny things also have teeth.”