The River Beyond the World

Janet Peery, Author Picador USA $24 (286p) ISBN 978-0-312-14719-8
The winner of a Whiting Foundation Award, short-story writer Peery (Alligator Dance) sets her first novel in the border country between Texas and Mexico, from 1944 to the present, and recounts the intertwining tales of Luisa Cantu and Edwina ""Eddie'' Hatch over a 50-year span. Having fled her Mexican hometown burdened by pregnancy from an ancient fertility ritual, Luisa finds employment as maid-of-all-work for petulant, wealthy Eddie Hatch, a transplanted Southern lady easily irritated by ""lazy"" Mexican help and her skittish, sexually uninterested husband. She and Luisa enter into an oddly intimate, if outwardly crusty relationship over the decades, during which Eddie gives birth to her only child, Raleigh (the result of a dalliance with a citrus grower) and Luisa raises her children, Gustavo and Antonia. Inevitably, Antonia and Raleigh fall in love and conceive a baby. In a typical preemptive attempt to resolve matters, self-righteous Eddie takes Antonia over the border into Mexico for an illicit abortion that never comes to pass but serves to poison Antonia's sentiments towards ""Madama"" Eddie forever. The story then barrels toward closure, in which Luisa and Antonia must learn to forgive Eddie's hurts and Eddie must acknowledge Luisa's importance in her old age. Peery spins an involving narrative, maintaining suspense about the central characters' relationships. At times, however, one wishes she had turned her observant eye more to the characters' inward reflections than on atmosphere; her powers of rich description invite readers to hope for the same level of intense contemplation applied to the characters' inner lives. With whatever minor flaws, however, Peery succeeds in providing the engrossing pleasure of old-fashioned storytelling. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-312-16986-2
Ebook - 978-1-250-08379-1
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