A House in Earnest

Terry Farish, Author Steerforth Press $13 (250p) ISBN 978-1-883642-52-5
This languidly poetic story of a complex and unconventional couple brings together Vietnam veteran Christy Mahan and New Hampshire teenager Deborah Beebe in a cemetery in 1975, just as the war is ending. Haunted by his experiences as a minesweeper and his friend Emil Tero's death, Christy is emotionally erratic and untrusting. After a romantic beach interlude with Deborah, he retreats to a cabin in the woods above Franconia Notch, where he teaches history at a local college. A smitten Deborah soon follows him. They marry and have a child, Ian, and build a post-hippie commune of sorts with their fellow antiestablishment dreamers, including Sonia, who becomes Deborah's closest friend, and Sonia's daughter, Patience, among other, less developed characters. After Ian's birth, Christy becomes more and more withdrawn. The marriage grows heavy with anger and alienation until an acid-induced betrayal confuses Deborah enough to take her son and leave. This begins a cycle of helpless departures and lovelorn returns from ""a melancholy where they went together, like alcoholics."" Told from a present-day remove in language so carefully crafted that it's sometimes cryptic, the chronicle of the difficult marriage siphons dramatic urgency from a promising sideplot: Patience, now 17 and suffering from her own inexplicable malaise, hitches a ride home with a drunk, lecherous man. She escapes him, but is stranded on a freezing night deep in the mountain woods. Ian rescues her and the ordeal gives their extended family both a scare and a heightened sense of togetherness. The characters are all alternately moody, dodgy, desperate and, occasionally, starkly honest. Their emotional dark clouds, however palpably rendered, shadow the story with a melancholia that becomes wearying. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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