Northern Illinois University Press


The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath

A Novel

Kimberly Knutsen

“Knutsen writes clear and lovely prose. Her details and descriptions are vivid and surprising. She does an excellent job with setting and is skilled at subtly weaving in details that establish theme. I’m hooked by Knutsen’s prose, images, and metaphors.”—Diana Joseph, author of I’m Sorry You Feel That Way

“A joyous exploration of pain and the price that comes with the refusal to settle, this is a stunning first novel.”—Chicago Book Review

“A blend of tragicomedy and waning romance, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath explores uncomfortable material. Sharply drawn, claustrophobic settings and strong personalities add up to a promising academic novel.”—Foreword Reviews

Set in the frozen wasteland of Midwestern academia, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath introduces Wilson A. Lavender, father of three, instructor of women’s studies, and self-proclaimed genius who is beginning to think he knows nothing about women. He spends much of his time in his office not working on his dissertation, a creative piece titled “The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath.” A sober alcoholic, he also spends much of his time not drinking, until he hooks up with his office mate, Alice Cherry, an undercover stripper who introduces him to “the buffer”—the chemical solution to his woes.

Wilson’s wife, Katie, is an anxious hippie, genuine earth mother, and recent PhD with no plans other than to read People magazine, eat chocolate, and seduce her young neighbor—a community college student who has built a bar in his garage. Intelligent and funny, Katie is haunted by a violent childhood. Her husband’s “tortured genius” both exhausts and amuses her.

The Lavenders’ stagnant world is roiled when Katie’s pregnant sister, January, moves in. Obsessed with her lost love, ’80s rocker Stevie Flame, January is on a quest to reconnect with her glittery, big-haired past. A free spirit to the point of using other people’s toothbrushes without asking, she drives Wilson crazy.

Exploring the landscape of family life, troubled relationships, dreams of the future, and nightmares of the past, Knutsen has conjured a literary gem filled with humor and sorrow, Aqua Net and Scooby-Doo, diapers and benzodiazepines—all the detritus and horror and beauty of modern life.

October 2015 384 pp., 6x9
ISBN 978-0-87580-725-6
$18.95t Paper

Kimberly Knutsen is professor of English at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she holds a PhD in English from Western Michigan University and an MA from New Mexico State University. Her short stories have appeared in Cimarron Review and Hawai῾i Review.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-725-6
paper $18.95