Life of Helen Alone

Karen Lawrence, Author Villard Books $15.95 (261p) ISBN 978-0-394-55228-6
In this powerful tale, Helen, a psychotherapist, tries to make a life with her lover, Daniel, and his three children in a new and harsh environment. The precariousness of her situation is evoked in small, sharply etched scenes, such as when Marion, the ex-wife, visits and one of the children tactlessly asks Helen to take their family picture. Helen's struggle to find a place in a family not of her own making is almost mythic; enhancing that impression is the fact that the protagonist, her brother, Eddie (whose visit frames the novel), her lover and much of their motley assortment of neighbors are without surnames. This is not to say that the characterization is anything less than vividthe author's words are as earthy as the sharply individualized farm milieu. Relationships are formed and painfully severed, but the unsentimental novel pulsates with hope because the cues are taken from nature: ""The milk which poured from her Esther, the cow in abundance each morning and night said plainly to Helen: Life goes on'' ; and at the center of death is ``a flower in full bloom reversing its opening, the petals . . . folding in one at a time . . . releasing itself, back into the earth.'' Despite some flawsDaniel's motives are cloudy; Helen seems too selflessthis is an eloquent and considerable debut. (September 17)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1986
Release date: 07/01/1986
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