Elizabeth Mackiernan: Ancestors Maybe


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Elizabeth MacKiernan’s novel, Ancestors Maybe, is a comic fantasy about the Pagano- Christian tradition as it is experienced in central Connecticut. Three sisters, all named Marie, and their companion Hugo, probably a dwarf, entertain dead family members in a burlesque of family saga, Irish-American tall tale, and the post-Joycean novel. The form is largely catechism. The questions pondered by the characters range from: “Is the spiritual life at all possible in CT?” to “What’s for dinner?” An octogenarian buys a motorcycle, computer crime is committed, St. Brendan discovers America, and the future disappearance of almost everybody is finally explained.

MacKiernan was born in Boston in 1941. She has worked as a researcher in psycholinguistics, librarian, computer programmer, systems analyst, technical writer, and is now doing graduate work in Islamic Studies. She lives in Connecticut, is married and the mother of two adults.

This is MacKlernan’s first novel. She has completed a second.

“The author of this marvelous little Christmas tale, is a kind of Connecticut- Yankee version of a magic realist, stylishly anarchical in the James Thurber manner, with wonderful pace and a gift for wry oblique humor. A great read.”

–Robert Coover

“What if Ronald Firbank, Flann O’Brien, and Richard Brautigan found themselves forced to seek employment with one of Hartford, Connecticut’s large insurance companies? Ancestor’s Maybe might have resulted from such a collaboration.”

–Dennis Barone, Review of Contemporary Fiction

“MacKiernan’s skill is her ability to maintain an atmosphere allowing for the real, the magic, and the downright silly to roll along dauntlessly. Everything depends on fast- paced witticisms spiced with references to Pagano-Christian tradition, spiritual life, Shamanism etc. [The book] has a hilarious close.”

–Arnold Falleder, Small Press

“MacKiernan’s burlesque of an Irish-American family saga progresses from holiday to holiday, each celebrated in a seriocomic, Pagano-Christian tradition, With the innocence and charm of Saint-Exupery, the most flagrant violations of logic are stated calmly and matter-of-factly…. MacKiernan puts an Irish spin on magical realism which redeems this dysfunctional family from the banal and transports them to the realm of the fantastic. In a quest for the sacred in America, catechistic questions are endlessly asked, but rarely answered. Beneath the whimsical wit is the wisdom.”

–Elaine Dunphy, Multicultural Review

“Robert Coover’s cover blurb says “…this marvelous little Christmas tale…” I pull back at the diminutive. This marvelous little Christmas tale, this holiday fable is a very serious novel. It works through and with ideas like reference, then moves into the whole problem of how meaning is constructed, how Signification works. Or, how Signification plays, and makes serious fun.”

–Zed Ander, “Really Fictional Fiction,” Iowa Review