To say that Tilt is an engaging novel would be an understatement. This is a clear-your-schedule-so-you-can-read-it-in-one-sitting book. First-time novelist Elizabeth Burns displays her talent as an award-winning poet, creating simply stunning metaphors and lyrical prose with intricately woven images. Writing in the present tense, Burns imparts a sense of urgency that is central to the movement of the story. And what a story it is.
We readers are initially jostled between a background of Bridget, the main character, and her new home in Minnesota (where she moved from New York), a description of her parents, scenes from her first marriage, and finding out that her beloved cousin has breast cancer. We then briefly learn of Bridget’s father’s death and meet her two daughters, one of whom is autistic. The stage is set.
Burns then deftly takes us back to when Bridget met her second husband, a successful sculptor, who is the father of her children. We glimpse evocative earlier scenes of Bridget’s cousin and her father. Burns’ bouncing back-and-forth between past and present may be off-putting to some readers, but her technique only serves to build towards the upcoming chaos that will surround Bridget’s life. Burns describes the whirlpool of anxiety as Bridget comes to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis at the time that her younger daughter is born. Her cousin dies. Bridget’s husband’s bipolar disorder becomes unmanageable and he must be hospitalized. Upon his release, she receives the news that her father has stage four cancer.
But the best part about Bridget’s character is that she’s not perfect. She may be strong, but she’s human. Her cool wit is juxtaposed with her vulnerable soul, and even with all the humor she injects into her life, she breaks. We see her naked fears and her feel her pain. But through it all runs the current of her dreams, and her determination. She learns that reaching out for help – from her support group, her therapist, and even her emotionally distant mother – is the only way to cope. Her endurance, her outlook, and her spirit are uplifting and inspiring. Tilt is one of those books that will stay with you long after you finish it.