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Morality Tale

A Novel

List Price: $14.95

July 7, 2009 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8, 256 Pages | ISBN 9781582434810
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"Brownrigg's writing will remind readers of Carol Shields, whose quirky adjectives gave texture to her writing in a way that seemed effortlessly engaging and astute." —New York Times Book Review

Morality Tale is a novel about the triangular complications of a modern marriage and the comedy that flows from them. When the elusive but exciting Richard (an envelope salesman with a nice layperson’s line in Zen philosophies) meets this novel’s narrator, he offers her a friendly escape from her own daunting domestic life.

Burdened by her husband’s ongoing negotiations with his angry ex-wife, the strains of looking after two stepchildren, and the lingering ghost of her own past betrayals, she finds that the life of a “second marryer” leaves much to be desired.

As her friendship develops with Richard, so grows the shadow cast over her marriage by his presence, and when they make a late, illicit bay crossing together on a ferryboat, the story gathers momentum under California’s Mount Tamalpais. There, in the fabled Golden State, Sylvia Brownrigg shows how even a layperson’s Zen can lead to some important revelations about the need to look forward, not back.

Told with unwavering honesty and wit, Morality Tale explores what it means to be married a second time around—and the crucial universal truth that change is often the key to staying together.

SYLVIA BROWNRIGG’s novels have been included in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times lists of notable fiction. Pages for You won a Lambda award for fiction, and The Delivery Room was published by Counterpoint in 2008. Raised in England and California, she continues, with her family, to divide her time between London and Berkeley.


“‘Isn’t attraction mysterious?’ asks the narrator of Morality Tale, Sylvia Brownrigg’s divinely deadpan fourth novel, about an undernourished marriage and a love affair of the unconsummated kind… Brownrigg’s writing will remind readers of Carol Shields, whose quirky adjectives gave texture to her writing in a way that seemed effortlessly engaging and astute.” —New York Times Book Review

“A witty parable, a slight but subtle dissection of modern marriage, its ideals and banalities, ghosts and bit-part players… Illuminated by its sympathy toward its oddly innocent cast of characters, it presents the dilemmas of daily commitment and redemption in a form even burnt-out cynics might find palatable.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“In this slim, devastating novel, the marvelously talented Sylvia Brownrigg tells us more about the emotional politics of modern marriage—and divorce—than I can remember reading in a long time. It’s a bulletin from the front lines: timely, true, and at its heart surprisingly tender.” —Ann Packer, author of The Children’s Crusade

“Sylvia Brownrigg writes wonderfully about women. She is highly intelligent and philosophical, with an engaging wit and style.” —Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird

“It is a sign of a remarkable talent when an author can write with the kind of unflinching honesty that Brownrigg brings to bear on this precise dissection of a marriage, and still make us laugh. From the rueful, cringing smile to the out-and-out guffaw, this book is shockingly funny. A tragic delight.” —Ayelet Waldman, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Mother

“Brownrigg’s mordant tale of modern marriage… Refreshingly honest, winsomely self-deprecating, Brownrigg’s glib yet contrite heroine evinces both a saucy innocence and tortured anguish.” —Booklist

“A tragicomic tale of woe told in chirpy tones… Pan is spirited, with a talent for caricature. She sharply dissects the plight of a second wife. Surely, the moral she draws from her story—that husbands and wives need to treat each other with regard—is a worthy lesson.” —Los Angeles Times

“This novel is relentlessly thoughtful, a jittery and patient account of small acts and enormous repercussions. I read it in a day, but I’ll think about it for many, many days to come.” —Daniel Handlerauthor of A Series of Unfortunate Events

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