The daunting (1190 pages) length of this novel is the least of the impediments the author imposes between its sheer mass and the most willing reader. Even more challenging is a narrative manner by design elusive, at times opaque, interspersed with digressions, eccentricities, parentheses and asides. The plot focuses on the lives of James Mayn, a journalist come to New York from a town in New Jersey, and Grace Kimball, a feminist/therapist who conducts what she calls a Body-Self workshop for women who have been through the mill. (She is Mayn's neighbor, though the two never meet.) Gradually, fragment by fragment, aspects of their lives are examined, along with the lives of their families, friends, associates, in an effort to encompass a wide range of American experience and some sources of contemporary anxiety and anguish: marriage and divorce, parents and children, sexual deviation, U.S. intervention in Latin American politics, environmental pollution and destruction, nuclear devastation. Across the affective spectrum from estrangment to connectedness, the narrative voices return always to the themes of feeling. ""It's what's between us,'' a voice says, ``or we share.'' McElroy's ambition is heroic (the novel represents a decade's work), his canvas densely peopled, the animating talent unmistakable; but his narrative method is so diffuse and fragmentary, so willfully withholding of information, that the reader's admiration can soon give way to fatigue. (February 27)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1987 Release date: 03/01/1987 Genre: Nonfiction
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