Pursuit of Bliss: 1913 to 1919

Betty Palmer Nelson, Author
Betty Palmer Nelson, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (242p) ISBN 978-0-312-08169-0
Paperback - 978-0-312-11049-9
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With spare yet rich prose and strong, economical characterization, Nelson continues her Honest Women series ( Private Knowledge ; The Weight of Light ) in this quietly remarkable novel. Set in rural Tennessee between 1913 and 1919, the story of Annie Bee Henderson depicts happiness as a perilous, elusive goal, while implicity affirming it as the bounty of a rightly lived life. As prefigured in an opening quotation from Chaucer's ``Knight's Tale,'' Annie Bee, once in possession of her desires, often finds herself praying for their opposites. She and her husband, Ral, leading a hard but satisfying farm existence, decide to move their family to a town in hopes of ``a better home there and a better life.'' Instead they encounter unsettling influences, and find that their spousal roles change in ways that severely strain their marriage. Annie Bee discovers her true calling--as visiting nurse for the town doctor--and her soul's true mate; then she must make a painful decision, the nature of which is artfully kept shrouded until the book's final pages. Nelson renders these good country people--their essential nobility, truthfulness and gentle wisdom--in touching vignettes that, like fine drawings, fully capture their subjects in just a few strokes, with nothing wasted and not a trace of sentimentality. A beautiful, unpretentious story, from first word to last. (Nov.)
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