Soft Water-V752

Robert Olmstead, Author Vintage Books USA $6.95 (226p) ISBN 978-0-394-75752-0
The author of the short-story collection River Dogs revisits rural New England in this incessantly tense first novel. After he is orphaned, Asel is raised by a brutal German immigrant on a work farm for foster children, and then runs away to join his older brother Averell as a hunting guide in the Maine backwoods. Illiterate and ignorant of the world, Asel becomes a recluse after Averell's disappearance. But, lured by photographs of nudes in girlie magazines, he rejoins civilization to find a woman for himself. Asel eventually falls in love with Phoebe, who invites him to live with her in New Hampshire. He goes, but only after (unbeknownst to Phoebe) avenging the death of his friend Beecher at the hands of two hunters who had left a mysterious cache of weapons for safekeeping with Averell. Some details of plot and characterization are too vague, and the story's abrupt, violent climaxwith retribution coming at the hands of the Irish Republican Armyis strained and unrealistic within the context of Olmstead's insular small-town world. Nevertheless, this is an engrossing, fine piece of writing, with quirky, distinct characters and authentic dialogue. (April)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1988
Release date: 03/01/1988
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