Life Before Death

Abby Frucht, Author Scribner Book Company $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-83507-5
Isobel Albright, readers learn in the first sentence of this controlled, touching novel, has breast cancer. A curator at the local museum, Isobel is quirky, funny and heartbreaking, and the friendship between her and her houseguest and best friend's son, Hercules (""named for the constellation rather than the warrior""), largely keeps the story of her illness from straying into melodrama or cliche. Frucht (Snap; Licorice; Are You Mine?) has an eye for emotional details, as when Isobel remarks about Hercules: ""He couldn't have guessed, at least I hoped he couldn't, that his towel in my bathroom might have made me a little bit lonely."" But Isobel is no Mrs. Robinson, and her love for Hercules runs deeper than lust (though certainly, as the many sentences describing his physical being attest, she is attracted to him). In her, Frucht has invented an original character who is both grounded and playful, cognizant of her illness, indeed weakened by it, but at the same time consumed by the rest of her life. Frucht's high-spirited cleverness diverts attention from the devastating heart of the novel: the threat of Isobel's impending death; this cunning disarms the reader and lends a rare poignancy to a necessarily tragic ending--and to its consolation: ""just because I was mortal didn't mean I wasn't alive."" (July)
Reviewed on: 06/30/1997
Release date: 07/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-0-684-84627-9
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