"[Anshaws] gift for narrative and character
development . . . are brought to generous fulfillment in this beautifully nuanced
novel." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Christine Snow, a Chicago therapist, has at last escaped past demonsan inattentive
mother, a con-man father, too many wrong loversand found blissful
domesticity with Taylor Heyes, a travel photographer and the answer
to Chriss dreams. The two women share a house, a dog, favorite
spotsa life. Then, one morning, Taylor disappears.
Chris quickly becomes alarmed. Has Taylor left in anger, or has she met with some
terrible fate? Chriss close friend and colleague, Daniel, consoles
but cannot comfort her. Her patients demand her attention even as she
becomes too distraught to take care of herself. A mutual friend, Leigh,
reveals things about Taylor that Chris never guessed at. Then, searching
Taylors darkroom, Chris finds a clue that sets her off on a journey
into the Moroccan desert and into the recesses of her own psyche.
Badly shaken, Chris questions her own perceptions: if she has misread Taylor for so
long, perhaps she hardly knows her own mind. She also faces the painful,
but possibly redemptive, truths about the under-pinnings of her life.
Seven Moves bursts with jazzy spirit, the poignancy of loss,
and the promise of self-discovery
We hope the following questions will stimulate discussion for reading
groups and provide a deeper understanding of Seven Moves for every reader.
1. What are some of the ways in which Chris and we questionas
a result of her misperception of her and Taylors relationshipher
competence as a therapist and lover?
2. What different views of female sexuality emerge from the relationships and
actions of Chris, Renny, Taylor, Leigh, and Stéphane Michaud?
3. Does Chriss challenge ultimately become one of recreating her very
identity, beyond merely reconstructing her life without Taylor? What
is the relationship between identity and love, desire, and self-deception?
To what extent do we create our own identities or have them imposed
upon us by society?
4. How central to Chriss life is her need for control? Does she come
to realize that loss of control is a defining element in her disintegration?
How is the need for control related to a persons self-esteem?
5. In what ways do Chriss neglect and manipulation by her parents, in
her early years, contribute to the vulnerability that surfaces following
6. There are numerous references to gambling throughout the book, from Chriss
card-sharp father, to the Magic 8 Ball, to Chriss own prowess
with cards. What is the significance of all these references?
7. How much to the point is Myras comment (remembered by Chris) that
covering a lot of territory means youre never wholly vulnerable
in any one place? In what ways does our gradually acquired knowledge
of Chriss sexual history contribute to our understanding of her
character and her inability to achieve true intimacy?
8. Chriss best friend and closest confidant, Daniel, is a fellow therapist and
a heterosexual man with troubles of his own. How does his role differ
from that of Leigh?
9. How do the ten flashbacks, juxtaposed with the ongoing narrative of Chriss
present, contribute to our understanding of Chriss attraction
to Taylor and of Chriss changing comprehension of their
relationship? To what extent do these flashbacks foreshadow for us,
if not for Chris, the outcome of that relationship?
10. In the first flashback, we learn that in the face of everything
Chris knows to be true about the fundamental isolation of humans, their
imperviousness to real connection, or the failure of connection to alleviate
the isolation, . . . she longs to . . . slip back to the place before
unbelieving. What does this tell us about Chriss inability
to confront her own emotions and behavior? How does a terror of being
stunningly, utterly alone impact Chriss personal relationships?
11. What are the two most important physical clues Chris discovers that
enable her to better understand Taylors disappearance? How is
it ironic that she finds both clues in Taylors darkroom?
12. At the novels midpoint Chris arrives in Morocco and confronts
Stéphane Michaud in the desert. What is the correspondence between
the desert, where the paved road gives way to unmarked sandy tracks,
and Chriss inner state? What revelations does she have during
her drive, in the Berber market, and in her confrontation with Mme.
13. Stéphane Michaud tells Chris that for Taylor, aging was
like a death. The powers she holds are youth and beauty. How does
Chris react to this? To what extent does this explain Taylors
14. Chris and we are presented with growing evidence that the Taylor she
loved was, to a great extent, a figure of her own imagining. And after
her visit to the psychic, Chris realizes that who she is missing
and who she might find are quite different people. How does each
of us, like Chris, create the person we love out of our own needs, hopes,
desires, and ideals?
15. Chriss words near the end of the novel, directed to Daniel, are:
The ferocious solitude and isolation of it all. Souls sealed away
in separate bubbles. To what extent does this constitute Chriss
final judgment of her own and everyone elses situation in life?
What does it reveal about Chriss newly acquired sense of self?
Carol Anshaw was born in Detroit and has lived in Chicago for many years.
were published, she
wrote restaurant reviews, articles on a variety of topics (including
barbed wire), and young-adult vampire novels. And for seven years she
was backup (to Roger Ebert) movie reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times
Anshaw writes short stories and reviews books for newspapers and magazines
nationwide. In 1990, she received the National Book Critics Circle Citation
for Excellence in Reviewing.
appeared to excellent reviews in 1992. For this inventive, provocative
novel she won the Chicago Public Library's Carl Sandburg Award and the
Society of Midland Authors Book Award. In 1995 she received a Creative
Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The publication
in 1996, again to reviewers' acclaim, established Anshaw
as a novelist of the first order.
While working on her next novel, Anshaw continues to write short stories (which
have appeared in Houghton Mifflin's annual collection, The Best American
and elsewhere) and teaches in two graduate writing
programsat the Art Institute of Chicago and at Vermont College,
from which she received her own degree in 1992.
A Conversation with Carol Anshaw
you gave a single character three parallel lives. Does
Seven Moves also bend the
novel form in some way?
No, I wanted to work with a straightforward narrative this time. Id
become interested in novels that were serious fiction and at the same
time compelling stories. Also, Id seen a lot of books about people
who run away, but not many about the people they leave behind. If someone
you love suddenly disappeared, this would, I think, push you onto the
hardest ground of your self, and I wanted to explore this constellation
of event and emotion.
Why did you make the main characters of Seven Moves gay women?
Well, its the world I live in, a world I feel has not been written about
enough. I tried to create a sort of panoramic view of urban lesbian
life to show how were very much like straight people, and also
very different. By setting the book in Chicago, and addressing issues
of intimacy, isolation and loss that have come up in my own life, I
feel more vulnerable and exposed with this book than with Aquamarine.
I created a protagonist quite unlike myself who lives several lives
very different from my own.
How did you become a novelist in the first place?
My mother tells me I tried to write my first book when I was six, but didnt
know enough words. I came to writing through reading. Id go to
the library, look for titles I liked, bring home these stacks of books.
And since they were novels, thats what I wanted to write. I was
really in a cave by myself during this time, through adolescence and
into my 20s. I had little in the way of formal education, didnt
know anyone who wrote fiction. I just kept reading and writing, teaching
myself as I went along.
What are you working on now?
I have the beginnings of a new novel in mind, also a short story titled
The Mystery of the Jungle Airstrip, which isnt a mystery
and doesnt feature either a jungle or an airstrip.