The Potato Baron

John Thorndike, Author, Alison Acker, Editor Villard Books $17.95 (285p) ISBN 978-0-394-57712-8
Fay Hallwick Pooler, 42, loves her husband Austin but feels that he cares more about potatoes than he does about her. She gives him an ultimatum: abandon their Maine potato farm and start a new life with her, or end their 20-year marriage. Then, because she can't stand another winter in White Pine, she takes off with eight-year-old son Blake to Mexico, Florida and a Tucson trailer camp. Austin, a Harvard grad, decides to paint his yellow farm buildings heliotrope purple on the day Fay leaves; he's the quixotic kind of guy who once ate nothing but milk and potatoes for 40 days. These stolid potato farmers are not undersexed: Austin has had an affair with Lauren, his neighbor and childhood sweetheart. Now Fay moves in with Mexican rock record importer Ricardo, while Austin beds Ricardo's young Mexican mistress, whose heart he threatens to eviscerate, just like the Mayas. Fay's abrupt leap for freedom hardly seems an act of liberation, and both halves of this ``sexually enlightened couple of the north country'' are so self-centered, we don't give a spud whether they're ever reunited. Thorndike ( Anna Delaney's Child ) has written a protracted, tuberose tale of marital woe, instead of the offbeat, touching novel this wants so desperately to be. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
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