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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lost and Bound

Antonya Nelson
Bloomsbury, 2010

Catherine and Oliver, young wife and older entrepreneurial husband, are negotiating their difference in age and a plethora of well-concealed secrets. Oliver, now in his sixties, is a serial adulterer and has just fallen giddily in love yet again. Catherine, seemingly placid and content, has ghosts of a past she scarcely remembers. When Catherine's long-forgotten high school friend dies and leaves Catherine the guardian of her teenage daughter, that past comes rushing back. As Oliver manages his new love, and Catherine her new charge and darker past, local news reports turn up the volume on a serial killer who has reappeared after years of quiet, causing everyone to be just a little bit on edge.

This quiet little book at first appears to be contemplative and reflective. Perhaps the reader expects lots of description and too little dialogue. It actually proved to be more interesting and compelling than I expected. Don’t get the wrong idea: it wasn’t so fascinating that I couldn’t put it down, but it wasn’t boring, like the cover implies. However, I quite forgot what it was about two days after I finished it -- I guess it wasn’t as good as I remembered. The premise is not so unique: older husband is a cheater; younger wife finds she doesn’t much care. He is giddy with new love; she is preoccupied with the news that she is now the guardian of a girl she has never met. Orphaned teenager is confused, grieving, and feeling abandoned. All very typical and perhaps even stereotypical.

So, what made this book different? I’m not sure. The tone was quiet, reserved and distant. I didn’t really care about the characters or the outcome, but something appealed to me. The writing was spare and the book short. It seemed that each word was carefully chosen and placed in exactly the perfect spot. The experience of reading was rewarding even if the characters, plot and ending were uneventful. It’s almost as if the language took over the rest of the elements of the story, making them unimportant in the whole. It’s an interesting effect, and worth the effort.


Other books by this author:
The Expendables: stories (1990)
Talking in Bed (1996)
Nobody’s Girl (1998)
Living to Tell (2000)
Female Trouble: a collection of short stories (2002)
Nothing Right: stories (2009)

Other books you may enjoy:
One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash (2002)
Will Alexander is the sheriff in a small town in southern Appalachia, and he knows that the local thug Holland Winchester has been murdered. The only thing is the sheriff can find neither the body nor someone to attest to the killing. Simply, almost elementally told through the voices of the sheriff, a local farmer, his beautiful wife, their son, and the sheriff's deputy, this story reveals infidelity, jealousy and betrayal in 1950s South Carolina.

In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde (2009)
A rafting trip through the Grand Canyon changes the lives of everyone on board, including a jaded guide; a septuagenarian couple who know they will never make this trip again; and a teenager and her mother, who will face the most daunting journey of all.

Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood (2005)
After surviving a near-fatal accident, thirty-year-old Lizzy Mitchell faces a long road to recovery. She remembers little about the days she spent in and out of consciousness, save for one thing: She saw her beloved deceased uncle, Father Mike, the man who raised her in the rectory of his Maine church until she was nine, at which time she was abruptly sent away to boarding school. Was Father Mike an angel, a messenger from the beyond, or something more corporeal? Though her troubled marriage and her broken body need tending, Lizzy knows she must uncover the details of her accident-and delve deep into events of twenty years before, when whispers and accusations forced a good man to give up the only family he had.

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