Relative Distances), a dark, claustrophobic novel t"/>

CRUISE CONTROL

Victoria Jenkins, Author, John Butman, Author . Permanent $24 (144p) ISBN 978-1-57962-045-5

A screenplay writer takes to the road after she is shattered by a tough divorce in Jenkins's latest (after Relative Distances), a dark, claustrophobic novel that remains insular in tone and spirit despite the protagonist's wide-ranging Western travels. Los Angeles is the focal point for Louise, who uses her affair with M., a married Hollywood player, as an emotional anchor in her wanderings. She is looking for some place that will provide a new sense of home, but her wanderlust does little to change her profound sense of emotional and spiritual dislocation, and a powerful combination of nostalgia and ennui prevents her from diving into any revelatory experiences the road might offer. The itinerary includes such disparate locations as Utah, Mexico City and Texas, with the last locale coming the closest to giving her feelings of satisfaction as she returns to the family home to bury her grandmother, even though the two women had little sense of connection. But the closure inherent in that subplot represents an emotional earthquake compared to her listless, rudderless affair with M. The only sequence other than their initial meeting that creates any kind of sparks comes when M. has a brief fling with a provocative young actress while Louise is with him on a film set in Mexico. Jenkins clearly knows her way around the nuances of character, mood and setting, but she gives her readers little plot to cling to in this brief, uneven book. The enduring impression is of Louise's relentless sadness and the fleeting satisfaction she gets in the few brief scenes with her school-age children, and that combination isn't nearly enough to rescue this novel. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/14/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
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