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The Boston Globe


Book Review

‘An Enlarged Heart’ by Cynthia Zarin

Supposedly nobody’s buying collections of personal essays these days — perhaps that’s why the hapless character played by Lena Dunham on “Girls” is so intent on writing one. If it’s true that such works aren’t in demand, it shouldn’t be. Pieces that coalesce around a particular period in a writer’s life can form a lovely mosaic-like memoir. Meghan Daum’s “My Misspent Youth’’ is one, and, at the other end of the age spectrum, Diana Athill’s “Somewhere Towards the End’’ is another. From the middle comes Cynthia Zarin’s often elusive and always enchanting “An Enlarged Heart: A Personal History.’’

This is Zarin’s first book of prose for adults. She’s published four volumes of poetry and several children’s books. The 12 essays that comprise “An Enlarged Heart’’ weave in and out of Zarin’s two marriages, her own childhood and her children’s, beach houses, Manhattan apartments, and European junkets. This may sound disjointed, but it isn’t. Zarin knits her stories together with an appealing and deeply intimate voice. Whether she’s remembering a failing relationship or a torn jacket lining, Zarin’s essays read as if we’ve caught her in the middle of a conversation with herself — as the best personal essays do.

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