The Conditions of Love
“I felt an enormous sadness shoot through my chest, and my eyes burned with tears. It frightened me how much I loved him; I wanted to call him back from wherever he was going, but in a rush of knowledge I realized my daddy was a tricky, dangerous man, and I could never trust his love.”
The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. In 1953, ten-year-old Eunice lives in the backwaters of Wisconsin with her outrageously narcissistic mother, a manicureeste and movie star worshipper. Abandoned by her father as an infant, Eunice worries that she will become a misfit like her mother. Rescued from a freak storm by the shaman-like Rose, Eunice’s odyssey continues with a stay in a hermit’s shack and ends with a passionate love affair with an older man. At once fable and realistic story, The Conditions of Love is a book about emotional and physical survival.
Three Madison-area bookstores have signed hardcover and paperback copies of The Conditions of Love which you can buy in person or order for shipment. Be sure to specify in your order that you want a signed copy.
Arcadia Books (use code FREESHIP 14 to get Free Shipping)
Read a Q&A with Dale M. Kushner here.
Listen to the beginning of the Audiobook version of The Conditions of Love by Dale Kushner narrated by Tara Ochs:
Eunice grows up fighting for love from the people who should love her unconditionally but is bolstered by love from unexpected sources…Eunice is a lonely, artistic girl who grows into a temperamental young woman whose strength and capacity for love belie her tough upbringing. This is poet Kushner’s first novel, and her roots show; passages describing even the bleakest Midwestern landscapes are artfully drawn. A coming-of-age story that wonderfully combines literary style with heartbreaking plot twists and still manages to be uplifting—
Excerpt from The Conditions of Love
From Section One
Mern: Via Separatio
The Big Bum, she called my daddy. “Let me set the record straight on that Big Bum,” she’d say. “He stranded us when you were a mere squirt in diapers. Up and vamoosed in his goddamn got-no-words-for-it-babe way. No note. Nothing!” He’d left a hundred bucks tied with a white ribbon, five twenties, in a fry pan. My father, it should be noted, had a showman’s touch. The story of his departure grew more elaborate, more pathetic and heartrending with each passing year. Occasionally my mother conceded he had a big heart. Then she’d add he had a Big Something Else, too, and the Big Something Else got him into trouble. “A big something else?” I’d ask, concerned. “Yeah,” Mern would say, her nostrils pinched from despair. “What would you know?” A wave of self-sorrow would sweep over her, and she’d grab at the nearest soft thing, me, and smother my face against her scrawny chest.
From Section Three
Slowly the second time, like the slowness of a new creation, a different story than the old creation in which God made the universe one, two, three. Our god—Fox’s and mine—marveled for eons over the beauty of his creations. Our god took his time enjoying awe. There was the wonder of rapturous sensations, contradictory and compelling, their final authority over me, the wonder of being two Eunices, one enthralled, the other cataloging her pleasure, as if some part was a turbulent wind contained within a vast, calmer atmosphere. The wonder of all those sly, enfolded places, of our bodies, tarnished and gleaming, rubies, iron, salt, and bone.