cover image Saving Elijah

Saving Elijah

Fran Dorf. Putnam Adult, $25.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14630-5

Taking a chance with a heart-wrenching subject--a dying child, and a mother's guilt and desperation--Dorf (Flight) has produced a stunning third novel that crackles with suspense, dark humor, and provocative questions. Dorf, who lost her own son six years ago, explores the depths of maternal desperation in psychologist Dinah Galligan, whose five-year-old, Elijah--born with cognitive and developmental difficulties as well as myriad physical ailments--is in a coma in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. In the hospital corridor, Dinah encounters a wise-cracking, guitar-playing ghost, who, she realizes later, is the spectral remnant of her first lover, Seth Lucien. Dorf draws Seth with an irreverent pen: his bloody, dirty, phantasmal body has the stench of decomposition; his mouth is dirty as well, slinging insults, mocking Dinah and blaspheming against God. In the grip of Seth's pervasive presence--he appears at unexpected moments in her home, her office and in her dreams--and as a result of the hidden secrets he forces her to face, Dinah's life falls apart. Her practice folds; her teenage children, Alex and Kate, recoil in shock; and her exasperated husband temporarily flees. Dorf forcefully validates Dinah's choice, for--because of the Faustian bargain she makes with the demon--Elijah emerges from the coma; and not only that, he thrives, newly possessed of prophetic powers. Whether Seth is an actual presence or merely a product of Dinah's imagined fears and guilty conscience, she is forced to face her inner demons, real and imagined, finding redemption with the help of her angelic child, a sympathetic rabbi and her steadfast husband. With sharply emotional description and unerring domestic dialogue, Dorf has created a compelling page-turner that turns a family tragedy into a spellbinding novel of psychological suspense, and meditates, with honesty and insight, on the nature of parental love and responsibility. Agent, Joni Evans. Rights sold in Germany; film rights optioned by Sydney Pollack. (June)