The BookBrowse Review

Published August 2, 2023

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Time's Mouth
Time's Mouth
A Novel
by Edan Lepucki

Hardcover (1 Aug 2023), 416 pages.
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
ISBN-13: 9781640095724

From New York Times bestselling author Edan Lepucki comes an enthralling saga about family secrets that grow more powerful with time, set against the magical, dangerous landscape of California

Ursa possesses a very special gift. She can travel through memory and revisit her past. After she flees her hometown for the counterculture glory of 1950's California, the intoxicating potential of her unique ability eventually draws a group of women into her orbit and into a ramshackle Victorian mansion in the woods outside Santa Cruz. Yet Ursa's powers come with a cost. Soon this cultish community of sisterhood takes an ominous turn, prompting her son, Ray, and his pregnant lover, Cherry, to flee their home for Los Angeles and reinvent themselves far from Ursa's insidious influence. But escaping their past won't be so easy. A series of mysterious events forces Cherry to abandon their baby, leaving Ray to raise Opal alone.

Now a teenager and still heartbroken over the abandonment of the mother she never knew, Opal must journey into her own past to reveal the generations of secrets that gave rise to the shimmering source of her family's painful legacy.

From the forests of Santa Cruz, to the 1980s glam of Melrose Avenue to a solitary mansion among the oil derricks off La Cienega Boulevard, and brimming with the double-edged capacity of memory to both heal and harm, Time's Mouth is a poignant and evocative excavation of the bonds that bind families together.

Part One Chapter One

Let's begin with Ursa.
She is Ray's mother—though, in 1938, when she is born in the caul like a mystic in Mystic, Connecticut, that lineage is yet to be written. Her name isn't even Ursa yet. It's Sharon.

At first, Sharon is only a beautiful baby, and then an adorable little girl, living with her parents in a creaking clapboard house with a narrow staircase and the faint tickle of mildew in both bathrooms. On a chair by the front door her father's hat settles like a mound of dark soil.

Imagine Mystic, Connecticut, back then: the brick post office, the ships in the port, the sea salt in the air. Imagine young Sharon, the child she used to be, bows at the end of her pigtails, saddle shoes on her feet, porcelain dolls lining her bedroom shelf. Nothing amiss. Or everything.

Imagine her a few years older: slipping into reverie during a dull classroom lesson, or riding her bike through town, or biting her nails. Picture her at sixteen years old, lying on her twin bed in her room.

It's a Wednesday. About five in the evening. Mid-October.

It was chilly out, but because Sharon didn't want to have to remake her bed, she lay very still atop her pink chenille bedspread. There was a hole in her left sock, and she wiggled the exposed toe before tucking it back into the white cotton. She was tall, and her feet reached the end of the mattress. Downstairs, her mother cooked dinner, and Sharon could smell the pot roast and the mushy carrots, no doubt too much food for a widow and her daughter.

She felt bored—desolate with it. The lamp on her dresser cast a sallow glow across the pale blue wall and the painting of the teddy bear that had hung in her bedroom for her entire life. The bear's black marble eyes were beseeching and needy, but if she took the painting down, its absence would reveal a darker rectangle of blue on the wall, and what then?

Sharon was a high school junior and hated everything about it except slamming her locker shut between classes, and afterward, tossing her majorette baton high into the sky before catching it in her fist. Right now, she wanted a cigarette, yet she didn't dare steal another from her mother. The widow had begun counting them.

The days were getting shorter, and within weeks the trees would be spindly and bare. At the thought of the red and orange leaves fluttering from the trees to a soppy ground, she closed her eyes. She held her breath for as long as she could before letting it out in a rush like a swimmer coming up from the deep.

It was then that she felt it. Something. It brushed her as a breeze might—it wasn't a breeze. It was like a spirit, only not one. It was like an invisible butterfly tickling its wings against her skin, or like a stirring. What was it? Nothing like this had happened before.

Her eyes remained closed. The nubby roses on the coverlet nudged her spine. She didn't consider herself spiritual, or mystical, and she wasn't much curious about the unseen. No matter. A lack of interest isn't the same as prevention.

She took a shallow breath. Her body prickled with goose pimples. She—went.
She found herself ... elsewhere.

Her backyard, at night. In the dark, the tall trees bordering the lawn had turned into craggy monsters, the moon a fingernail clipped against the black above. A few feet away, she saw herself, kneeling on the grass, as if praying.

How could she see herself? She could feel her own body, back in the bedroom, but she was also here in the backyard, without a form. She was a floating consciousness. This other self, the one on the grass—Sharon recognized herself. Three years in the past. She was thirteen. And, still, sixteen. Here and there at the same time.

This was the night of her father's funeral. The best day of her life. Her younger self wore the new black dress her mother had purchased for the service. With effort Sharon had zipped it up herself that morning, and now she never wanted to take it off. If she ...

Full Excerpt

Excerpted from Time's Mouth by Edan Lepucki. Copyright © 2023 by Edan Lepucki. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Multigenerational trauma haunts time travelers in Edan Lepucki's engrossing novel.

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Edan Lepucki's novel Time's Mouth explores how trauma can linger in a family, its effects passed down through successive generations. At the age of sixteen, Sharon discovers she can transport herself into her past, beginning with her reliving the "happiest day of her life" – the day of her father's funeral, three years earlier. She finds she's able to observe and feel what her younger self is feeling, but not to change the scene in any way. As her ability to time travel improves, she decides to run away from home, abandoning the mother who did nothing to protect her from abuse. She moves to California, adopts the name Ursa, and ultimately creates a cult, her power drawing other women with troubled pasts. The novel's focus then shifts to Ray, Ursa's son, and Cherry, another child born on the cult's compound, who in turn abandon Ursa in search of a "normal life" together. Finally, the story moves to their daughter, Opal, who has inherited Ursa's time-traveling gift – or is it a curse? As teenage Opal seeks to understand her talent, she discovers painful truths about her family.

The story unfolds over four decades, and Lepucki brilliantly recreates each era, from California's counterculture movement in the 1960s to the Y2K concerns of 1999. The plot is both complex and involving; it's one of the more inventive storylines I've encountered in quite some time, and I was rapt from start to finish. In addition to exploring intergenerational trauma, the author probes issues surrounding parenting and abandonment.

Lepucki's characters are marvelous as well, three-dimensional and exquisitely penned. Each is deeply scarred, and one of the most engaging aspects of the novel is the ways in which they allow that long-held trauma to manifest over time. Their simmering, unacknowledged resentment is palpable. Ursa's metamorphosis from a damaged teen to powerful cult leader, in particular, is a fascinating transformation.

Perhaps the most exceptional part of the book, though, is Lepucki's ability to imbue her story with a subtle ambiance of malevolence. There's an undercurrent of unease, the feeling that something's just not quite right, but the reader can't put their finger on what's off-kilter; it's only at the book's conclusion that they recognize the monster that's been hiding under the bed all along.

Overall, the book's pacing is excellent, and I found it hard to put down. However, there are a few sections involving Ray's attempt at therapy which seemed somewhat incongruous with the rest of the narrative. The author included these chapters to introduce an important plot device called an Orgon Accumulator (see the Beyond the Book), but in addition to slowing down the story, they seem out of step with the concerns debated through the rest of the novel. But that's a minor quibble about what is otherwise a stellar work.

I loved Time's Mouth from the get-go, but as time passes, I find myself appreciating it even more. I'm realizing there were all these little nuances that made the novel a truly extraordinary read. I highly recommend it to any reader who enjoys quality fiction. Book groups will find many great discussion topics here as well.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

Los Angeles Times
It is a story of motherhood and disjunction, of self-making and villainy, of a remarkable power depicted and deployed on an intimate scale ... The novel is a page-turning exploration of the intergenerational trauma of this very specific family with its unique gift, and the ways each new generation tries to heal itself ... One of California's most anticipated books of the summer.

A time-travel story that feels shatteringly real ... It's both gripping and moving, and promises at least one burst of cathartic tears.

Spanning decades and tracking the evolution of, and recovery from, intergenerational trauma, Time's Mouth is a dreamy, heartfelt tearjerker.

An Edan Lepucki novel—any Edan Lepucki novel—is a treat. But this one involves a Californian woman who can time-travel through her own memories ... I was sold on 'time-travel,' how about you?

Literary Hub
For fans of Matrix and The Girls, Time's Mouth is a mesmerizing and confident novel about power, desire, and the depths of our bonds.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lepucki's latest novel is, in a word, a trip...This emotionally intense, wildly imaginative novel is both down-to-earth and out-to-lunch. One of a kind.

Library Journal
Those who enjoy reading about California counterculture and cults may be intrigued.

Publishers Weekly
Extensive asides on Wilhelm Reich's orgone theories and his energy accumulator are bizarre and distracting, though Lepucki deploys plenty of evocative similes (for Ray, guilt feels like "a coat of paint covering his body, drying him into a kind of cast"). Thanks to Lepucki's fine prose, this intrigues more than it frustrates.

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Gloria M
Must Read!
This is the third published work of fiction by Edan Lepucki and it is my favorite! It pulls you in from the first page as the "mouth of time" explains, "I'm not time, but I hold it." We are then introduced to Sharon, abused by her now deceased father, experiencing for the first time her remarkable ability that will set the tone of her life, and her descendants and the women who choose to "follow" her as she becomes Ursa. 
I feel very uncomfortable reading about children in peril,  so often I found it necessary to close this book and take a break before I could resume. Yes, I am fully cognizant that they are merely characters on a page, but this does not alter my emotions. It is reflective of Lepucki's skill as a writer that this narrative is woven so intricately and compellingly that I simply must return to see where it went.   

I was never disappointed and  enjoyed learning about Ray and Cherry and Opal and was satisfied with their journey and the conclusion of "Time's Mouth,"  which is not always the case since endings are hard!!  I heartily recommend grabbing this one off the shelf!!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by krunal
A Journey into Time's Mouth: A Mesmerizing Tale by Edan Lepucki
The brilliant Edan Lepucki's latest book, Time's Mouth, is a captivating journey that takes readers on an exhilarating adventure through time and space. This book offers readers a spellbinding experience with its masterful storytelling, endearing characters, and complex plot.

The story, which takes place in a not-too-distant future in which time travel is a reality, centers on Charlotte, a gifted physicist who discovers a mysterious portal known as "Time's Mouth." She sets out on an extraordinary expedition that goes beyond the realm of human comprehension, driven by her insatiable curiosity and a desire to learn more about it. Lepucki expertly crafts a narrative as Charlotte travels through various times and places that seamlessly combines science fiction, mystery, and historical elements.

The way the characters are portrayed is one of the book's strongest points. Readers will have no trouble empathizing with Charlotte because of her insatiable curiosity and determination to solve the mystery of Time's Mouth. Her journey is made all the more compelling by her vulnerability and tenacity, and it's wonderful to see how she changes throughout the course of the narrative.

Equally well-developed are the supporting characters, who each add something special to the story's complex tapestry. Lepucki creates an intriguing cast of characters, from enigmatic fellow time travelers to vividly realized historical figures, all of whom are crucial to Charlotte's adventure.

Lepucki writes in an atmospheric, evocative style that effortlessly carries readers through time and space. Her writing is both elegant and captivating, conjuring up vivid scenes and feelings that stick in the mind long after the last page has been turned. The pace of the book is just right, skillfully juggling scenes of intense action with quieter, introspective scenes that let readers empathize with the characters fully.

Lepucki skillfully weaves together complex plot threads as the story develops, connecting seemingly unrelated characters and events. The unexpected and satisfying revelations and turns keep readers guessing right up to the very end.

Time's Mouth is also a lot more than a thrilling time travel adventure. Intricacies of human connection, the effects of altering time, and themes of human curiosity are all expertly explored by Lepucki. Long after finishing the last chapter, readers are still debating the novel's profound implications because it poses challenging questions about the nature of reality and the decisions we make.

The intricate narrative and time-hopping may require readers' undivided attention in order to fully appreciate the story's nuances, which may be considered a slight drawback. Ultimately, though, this obstacle serves to enhance the book's charm and provides attentive readers with a wholly immersive experience.

In conclusion, Time's Mouth is a captivating book that brilliantly displays Edan Lepucki's storytelling talent. This book will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on science fiction, time travel, and literary enthusiasts alike because of its endearing characters, imaginative premise, and challenging themes. Get ready to disappear into the amazing depths of Time's Mouth and return changed for good.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by prem singh yadav
Time's Mouth A Novel
"Times Mouth" shaped by Aidan Lepucci is a charming assessment of memory, family bonds and the appalling consequences of a captivating gift. Legend Ursa has the essential capacity to rise above her recollections, which drives her out traveling from her old neighborhood to the city. His beguiling gifts draw in a social gathering of ladies to the disrupted areas of St Scratch Cruz, yet structure a sisterhood inside the Victorian house.

Lepusi supportively turns around a record of secret and feeling as a clearly pure faction bit by bit takes a dull turn. Ursa's young person Shaft or his extra Cherry, sentiments a making disdain, choose to take off from Ursa, making a new beginning in Los Angeles. Regardless, the past can't be given up truly after a development of unusual occasions leave Cherry with no decision beside to leave her youth Opal in Shaft's thought.

Lepusi's creating is provocative and truly full, essentially inspecting the intricacies of memory, its capacity to both recuperate and hurt, the baffling affiliations that tough spot families together. The nature of the novel is unquestionably rich, bringing down perusers into the universe of Ursa and his relatives, making a vibe of both wistfulness and moving toward decimation.

The characters are magnificently made, each wrestling with their own heaps and needs, which causes them to feel genuine and locking in. Opal's outing of self-disclosure is particularly moving, as she faces the bothering of her past to uncover the early phases of her family's inconvenient inheritance.

In the book "Time's Mouth" by Edan Lepucki, the association between the mother Ursa and her kid Pillar, expects a basic part in shaping the story. As the story progresses, the foreboding effect of Ursa's powers prompts Bar and his pregnant accessory, Cherry to get away from their home and the dedicated neighborhood Ursa.

He transforms into the sole watchman of their daughter Opal after Cherry leaves the kid on account of mysterious circumstances associated with Ursa's past. The components among mother and kid are researched through memory, injury, and the tremendous impact of special pieces of data on their lives.

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Wilhelm Reich and the Orgone Energy Accumulator

Orgone Energy AccumulatorIn Edan Lepucki's novel Time's Mouth, one of the time travelers enhances their power using an obscure invention by a Viennese psychologist, Wilhelm Reich.

Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) was born in what is now Ukraine to Jewish parents, both of whom died when Reich was a child. After enlisting in the Austrian army during World War I, he entered medical school in Vienna. While there, he became a student and close friend of Sigmund Freud and worked in Freud's clinical practice as an assistant. He joined the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association in 1920 and earned his medical degree in 1922. He opened his own clinical practice at that point, specializing in sexual counseling. In 1930, he moved his work to Berlin.

At the start of his career, Reich's theories largely aligned with Freud's. Both felt that the suppression of sexual desire was the source of many neuroses. Reich took this theory one step farther, however, speculating that if sexual suppression caused mental instability, then it followed that sexual release would be a healing force. He believed that orgasms could prevent illness and promote the mental and physical well-being of a person, and by extension, could heal society. In several highly influential papers he espoused sexual freedoms that are still hotly debated today, such as open marriages and access to abortion and birth control. To put it (very) simply, sex was a good thing and nothing should prevent people from having a lot of it, guilt-free.

An avowed communist of Jewish descent, Reich left Germany in 1933 shortly after Hitler was elected chancellor. He lived in Denmark and Sweden briefly before settling in Norway. There, he developed a theory that all life is bound by a force he named "orgonic energy," which can be distributed through "bions," microscopic structures within living organisms that produce this energy. He speculated that "orgones" – as he named units of orgonic energy – could energize the human nervous system, and that an orgone insufficiency was responsible for mental illness.

His ideas about sexuality and the efficacy of orgasms had been controversial but were accepted by many of his peers. However, as his publications about orgonic energy became more and more outlandish, he lost support. In 1934 he was expelled from the International Psychoanalytic Association, and a few years later he was accused of scientific charlatanism by Norwegian authorities. As a result, in 1939 he moved to the United States to continue his work. In 1940, he built his first Orgone Energy Accumulator, a specially designed box he claimed could capture orgonic energy from the atmosphere and channel it into a person sitting inside the device. Various models were constructed, some with alternating layers of wood and wool, others using metal. He marketed the devices commercially, claiming they could cure all manner of ills, including cancer. The Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation into his assertions in 1947, and issued an injunction for him to cease distribution of his equipment and publications in 1954. He ignored this, and was jailed in 1956. He died of heart failure while in prison.

His theories made their way into popular culture after his death, however. Jack Kerouac wrote about the orgone box in his 1957 counterculture classic, On the Road, and author William Burroughs, a firm believer in the orgone box's benefits, built several. It's thought that the orgone accumulator inspired the Excessive Machine in the film Barbarella (1968), as well as the Orgasmatron in Sleeper (1973). Even today, you can find YouTube videos on building your own device and buy instructions and kits for them online.

Orgonon, Wilhelm Reich's 175-acre estate (and the site of his burial) has been preserved as a museum, which houses his library, papers, and several of his inventions. It's open to the public in July, August, and September.

A woman sits inside an Orgone Energy Accumulator, while a man holds the breathing apparatus. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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By Kim Kovacs

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