A Circle Around Her

Jonathan Strong, Author Zoland Books $13 (360p) ISBN 978-1-58195-014-4
A divorced mother, her four grown children, their friends, neighbors, significant others and ex-significant others make up the interlocking cast of characters in this modern family portrait. At 49, divorc e Mary Lanaghan lives alone in her lakeside house in a ""nothing corner of Massachusetts,"" where she has raised two sons and two daughters in her retreat from suburban materialism. On long walks through the woods with her German shepherd, Hilda, Mary enjoys the companionship of the gay owners of the local diner, vacationing urban dwellers, area natives and even her curmudgeonly landlord. She seems to have forged a bond with the land and the people around her, yet she yearns for something more--and she's not the only one. Mary's daughter Rosa dreams of finding a more committed and tender partner than her ski-bum boyfriend; Mary's other daughter, Shirley, is pining away for a young hunk; Mary's son Bayard, a handsome Don Juan, is attracted to a kindly, AIDS-infected older gay man; and her other, shy, inexperienced son, Martin, yearns for a woman he's met over the Internet. Only Mary's dog loves freely, unconditionally and unquestioningly. In the kaleidoscopic narrative, relationships unfold for characters of every age and lifestyle. Tufts professor Strong (Offspring; The Old World; etc.) compassionately depicts unconventional families, and individuals grappling with homosexual urges. Leaving unanswered his most urgent questions, however, he sometimes lets his tale drift too far into ambiguity; as Hale threatens to sell out to developers, the uncertainty of the geographic and emotional ecosystems is left unresolved. Strong compels readers to care about his characters, so when he leaves them unmoored at the end of the novel, readers may also feel at sea. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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