Of Simple Dreams

Nancy Hermann, Author Ballantine Books $3.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-345-35760-1
When Cale Morgan donates his worldly goods to the Shakers and joins their community, his young wife Elissa reluctantly follows. Repulsed by the ``virtual slavery'' she views as the Shakers' lot, she resolves to flee in order to determine her own future and raise the child she carries, a child Cale has rejected. Neither Elissa nor the author address seriously the question of how she'll manage this in antebellum Kentucky without funds or family. Instead, she's simply rescued by the hero, Jacob Ryan, a young physician who tends the Shakers during an influenza epidemic. Elissa and Jacob are likable enough, but their infrequent encounters fail to persuasively generate the bond between them that is claimed by the text. Consequently, a climactic scene, in which Jacob thinks he has arrived too late to save Elissa's life during childbirth, remains decidedly flat. The straightforward account of her difficult delivery is far more gripping than the hero's trauma. Finally, after persistently de-romanticizing the ordeals of Shaker existence, Hermann sells out logic for sentiment, shipping the characters off to Kansas for no better reason than because it's there. This first novel doesn't so much conclude as pause, with a sequel an obvious possibility. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1989
Release date: 10/01/1989
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