In Dark Water

Mermer Blakeslee, Author
Mermer Blakeslee, Author Ballantine Books $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-345-41777-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-345-41778-7
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Upstate New York in 1958 is the setting where 11-year-old Eudora Buell negotiates the stages of grief in Blakeslee's skilled fourth novel about a family's efforts to overcome the untimely death of Eudora's brother, David. Beginning with his funeral, the novel investigates the myriad ways in which hurt manifests itself in the bereaved family members. Eclipsed by the women in his life, Michael Buell dutifully attends to wife Florence's deteriorating mental state while she, for her part, displaces her rage onto her remaining child, Eudora. As Florence begins to achieve involuntary outsider status as an inconsolable victim of loss, Eudora ritualizes her grief into a tender mental disorder of her own. Cared for by the Tappen family--Pop and Beulah--she experiments with the organic quality of sadness until she becomes so sensitive that everything--a bobcat's call, the feel of newly shaven hair, the cool of a concrete wall--taxes her emotions beyond repair. Underpinned by institutional logic and dated inflexibility, Eudora's experiences land her in several schools and hospitals, all of which echo Michael's sentiment that, even in a child, recovery ""isn't that simple."" Hampered only by the often colorless simplicity of Blakeslee's (Same Blood) prose, the novel deftly shuttles between narrative voices, touches all the bases and nicely traces the uneven topography of sorrow and struggle. (Aug.)
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