Set for Life

Judith Freeman, Author W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-393-03027-3
Freeman's novels ( The Chinchilla Farm ) have grace, style and subtlety--and something more: a candid, unsentimental view of human relationships that nevertheless confirms the redemptive power of love. In an economically depressed rural community in Idaho, an unlikely pair comes together. Retired carpenter and widower Phil Doucet has been saved from death by a transplanted heart, which by bizarre coincidence came from the body of his beloved teenage grandson, killed in a car crash. Struggling with grief and guilt, Phil takes in 16-year-old waif Louise Matthews, on the run from her neo-Nazi stepfather. Louise has had an abortion and an affair with a long-distance truck driver by the time she manipulates herself into Phil's home. In a skillful touch, Freeman paints Louise as immature, surly and truculent; because her behavior is vulgar, her appearance trashy and her language foul, Louise is particularly unappealing. Essentially, however, she is desperately frightened. Phil, whose doctor has proclaimed him ``set for life,'' wonders what kind of life Louise is set for, and performs a brave act of compassion that helps him cope with the loss of his grandson. Freeman is equally adept at portraying the tensions and bonds of family life and the beauty and ugliness of nature in its seasons. If the narrative sometimes glides too easily over some complex issues, it rises to a credible and emotionally and intellectually satisfying resolution. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Hardcover - 978-0-517-12511-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-37947-4
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