Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374148379, 176pp.
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
"Indelicacy isn't merely a book, it's a world; a world I wanted to live in, forever . . . Arch, yet warm; aspiring and impervious; confiding and enigmatic; reposing and intrepid; Cain has conjured a protagonist who purged my mind and filled my heart." —Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond
A haunted feminist fable, Amina Cain’s Indelicacy is the story of a woman navigating between gender and class roles to empower herself and fulfill her dreams.
In "a strangely ageless world somewhere between Emily Dickinson and David Lynch" (Blake Butler), a cleaning woman at a museum of art nurtures aspirations to do more than simply dust the paintings around her. She dreams of having the liberty to explore them in writing, and so must find a way to win herself the time and security to use her mind. She escapes her lot by marrying a rich man, but having gained a husband, a house, high society, and a maid, she finds that her new life of privilege is no less constrained. Not only has she taken up different forms of time-consuming labor—social and erotic—but she is now, however passively, forcing other women to clean up after her. Perhaps another and more drastic solution is necessary?
Reminiscent of a lost Victorian classic in miniature, yet taking equal inspiration from such modern authors as Jean Rhys, Octavia Butler, Clarice Lispector, and Jean Genet, Amina Cain's Indelicacy is at once a ghost story without a ghost, a fable without a moral, and a down-to-earth investigation of the barriers faced by women in both life and literature. It is a novel about seeing, class, desire, anxiety, pleasure, friendship, and the battle to find one’s true calling.
About the Author
Praise For Indelicacy: A Novel…
"Eyebrow raising, tantalizing, and unforgettable . . . Indelicacy makes you think about creativity, friendship, and the nature of time . . . It transported me to a different part of my life." —Elisabeth Egan, The New York Times Book Review
"Indelicacy . . . is a work of feminist existentialism, or existentialist feminism—searching, like Lispector, and lucid, like Camus." —Martin Riker, The Paris Review Daily
"The experience of reading Amina Cain’s novel Indelicacy is kind of like that of meditating on a painting. Like a painting, the world . . . is stripped down. The time period seems to be an eternal present. Objects are few, and yet each is so alive it becomes a marvel . . . Cain has made a new thing with Indelicacy." —Kate Durbin, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Cain’s writing feels otherworldly . . . Indelicacy is stripped down like the chalk-lined set of the Lars von Trier movie Dogville. . . This is all in keeping with the world of Indelicacy, where wonder and fear vibrate alongside each other." —Nathan Scott McNamara, Los Angeles Review of Books
"This beautiful volume presents a compelling and unexpected take on women’s fulfillment in love, work and the world. Feminist and meticulous, Indelicacy is fresh, graceful, and gratifyingly daring." —Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
"I read [Indelicacy] slowly, in a kind of reverie, wanting to savour every page. It is so exquisite and precise that I felt I wanted to read it constantly, to live inside it . . . A completely absorbing, luminous account of a woman inhabiting her life and creativity." —Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From
"Amina Cain’s slim, precisely wrought debut novel reads as a fresh consideration of what it means to be a female artist." —AVClub
"The story of a marriage is generally meant to impose order on the novel, to subordinate each moment to a larger design. In Indelicacy, this story finds itself subordinate to other forms of female pleasure and desire: friendship, sex, dancing, writing, daydreaming." —Sarah Resnick, Bookforum
"Bewitching . . . Cain’s concentrated, subtle, and intriguing portrait of an evolving artist resolutely rejecting gender and class roles, with its subtle nods to Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, and Octavia Butler, explores the risks and rewards of a call to create and self-liberate." —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"Cain upends fairy tale endings in . . . this incisive tale . . .[Indelicacy] disquiets with its potent, swift human dramas." —Publishers Weekly
"A sort of ghostly arthouse Cinderella . . . Cain’s prose vibrates with fear and wonder. This is a novel I read three times slowly, basking in each phrase." —Nate McNamara, Literary Hub
"Deeply rooted in the literary tradition, [Indelicacy] inconspicuously references works like Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and Octavia Butler's Kindred and explores themes like class and gender. With its short, spare sentences, Cain's writing seems simple on the surface—but it is deeply observant of the human condition, female friendships, and art. A short, elegant tale about female desire and societal expectations." —Kirkus Reviews
"To read Amina Cain is to enter tide pools of the mind. On its surface, her fiction is quiet, lovely, contained, but sit with any passage and that which seems still uncoils and comes alive. The reach of her fiction is an invitation to peer deep into our inner worlds . . . what animates Indelicacy is the thrill of experiencing the narrator’s mind attuning to both her inner and outer worlds with equal parts agency and wonder." —Alissa Hattman, The Rumpus
"I developed a kind of synesthesia when considering Cain’s writing . . . Indelicacy is graceful and incisive." —Anne K. Yoder, The Millions
"What would a Vermeer look like painted by its subject? Measured, intense, precise, explosive, sensual, violent, mesmerising." —Joanna Walsh, author of Break.up
"In Indelicacy we meet a woman who spends time studying landscape paintings and then walking inside the landscapes where she lives. She looks at a landscape then moves inside another, and as we read it begins to seem that the landscapes in paintings and in fiction are eerily the same. In a deeply pleasing way, reading this novel is a bit like standing in a painting, a masterful study of light and dark, inside and out, freedom and desire. Amina Cain is one of my favorite writers. I loved reading this book." —Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First
"To read Amina Cain's Indelicacy is akin to donning magnifying spectacles that distill a woman's past into modern reality, these lucid and uncanny lenses remaining on the eye far beyond her pages." —Josephine Foster, musical artist
"With simplicity and wisdom, Amina Cain's Indelicacy strips away the clutter of the modern novel, leaving only her narrator’s concentrated attention and yearning. As a tribute to the history of its own form, Indelicacy manages to expand our ideas of both the classic and the contemporary." —Tim Kinsella, music-maker and author of Sunshine on an Open Tomb
"Acutely observed, Indelicacy is an exquisite jewel box of a novel with the passion and vitality found only in such rare and necessary works as The Hour of the Star and The Days of Abandonment. Through this timeless examination of solitude, art, and friendship, Amina Cain announces herself as one of the most intriguing writers of our time." —Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
"Amina Cain's diligence, patience, and clarity of vision are unparalleled. This is a writer profoundly aware of the impact and import of silence. Her sentences echo long after they’ve landed on the page. Keep your eyes peeled for Indelicacy." —Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, author of Call Me Zebra
"Amina Cain redefines strangeness and freedom in this beautiful and unusual novel that resembles fairy tales and ghost stories but feels intensely contemporary." —Alejandro Zambra, author of Multiple Choice
"Indelicacy is a novel like the tolling of a great bell. It will move your heart. Amina Cain's writing is the rarest kind: it creates not only new scenes and characters, but new feelings." —Sofia Samatar, author of Winged Histories
"I was spellbound by Amina Cain’s Indelicacy, partly because it is a lucid novel about human relationships, the soul, art, and change; partly because it is an intelligent yet raw tale about what ruptures are required to grow room for oneself; partly because of its witty juxtaposition of good and bad; but mostly because it is deeply original, like nothing I've ever read before." —Gunnhild Øyehaug, author of Wait, Blink