Amnesty

Louise A. Blum, Author
Louise A. Blum, Author Alyson Books $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-55583-276-6
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-1-55583-381-7
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This uneven first novel, about a young woman prompted by the death of her father to excavate a miserable childhood, fails to achieve its potential but is distinguished by a stylistic fierceness that commands attention. Maura Jaeger, 30, is a lonely lesbian teaching English at a rural Pennsylvania college when she's summoned home to bury her father, whom she hasn't seen for almost 13 years. Maura's memories of his cruelty spin the narrative back to 1968, when her eldest brother, Zach, dodged the draft, bringing disfavor on the family. As the story moves slowly forward to 1988, impressive highlights include the return of Maura's other war-weary brother, Colin, from Vietnam, where he'd gone to fight in a futile attempt to win his parents' approval, and poignant, sharply observed scenes of Maura's budding sexuality and her attempts at salvation through writing. The narrative is marred by Maura's overly self-conscious alienation, however, and by the lack of depth of most of the characters. The funeral scene, in which Maura, Colin and Mrs. Jaeger see Zach for the first time in 20 years, fizzles because of the flat portrayals. After setting up a classic family confrontation through a wealth of background and impassioned writing, Blum winds up showing us not much more than emotionally wounded people whom time has done little to change or heal. (Apr.)
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