Heart Mountain

Gretel Ehrlich, Author Viking Books $18.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-670-82160-0
This first novel by poet and essayist Ehrlich ( The Solace of Open Spaces earned comparison with Whitman and Thoreau) builds its story around the WW II internment of some 100,000 Japanese-Americans. Not far from an actual relocation camp on Heart Mountain in Wyoming, the author sets her invented town of Luster. McKay, unable to go to war with his brothers because of his lame leg, stays home to raise livestock. He resumes an affair with Madeleine, now the wife of a POW, but soon falls deeply in love with Mariko, a beautiful Nisei painter whom he visits in the guarded camp. Kai, a young Nisei historian, reports camps events from his point of view. Vignettes of Luster's local eccentrics contrast with those of sensitive Japanese artists and intellectuals whose lives are destroyed. Rich accounts of calving, cock-fighting and descriptions of the Western locale show the author at her best, but fail to advance the narrative. Ehrlich's assiduous research is evident, yet worthy as is her desire to expose the injuries dealt to innocent citizens in a time of national panic, her characters are often only wafer-thin. The novel succeeds less as a full-blooded work of fiction than as a compassionate documentary. 25,000 first printing; BOMC and QPBC alternates; author tour. (October)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1988
Release date: 10/01/1988
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