Five Hundred Scorpions

Shelby Hearon, Author Atheneum Books $19 (306p) ISBN 978-0-689-11584-4
With remarkable skill, Hearon takes a contemporary story of a man who leaves his wife to ""find himself,'' invests it with specificity and distinctiveness, and slowly segues into the heightened realm of metaphor and myth. Discontented with his wife Peg, whom he considers volatile and foolishly enthusiastic, Charlottesville lawyer Paul Sinclair suddenly decamps to join an anthropological expedition to the small Mexican town of Tepoztlan, near Cuernavaca. Enflamed by idealism and infatuated with one of the women on the project, Paul only gradually becomes aware that he has been duped as to the purpose of the study, which, it turns out,is meant to uncover rampant adultery among the residents of the village. Indeed, cuckoldry is on everyone's mind, and never more so than during the terrible night the men climb a mountain in tribute to an Aztec god. Paul's selfishness, self-delusion and self-pity are contrasted with Peg's stalwart behavior as she copes with their two sons and slowly becomes embroiled with a man from Paul's past. Hearon's prose is as clear, vivid and colorful as representational Mexican art; her graphic description of an earthquake has the heightened reality of nightmare. The novel's weak point is Paul, who is so unappealing that Peg's loyalty and love are difficult to credit. Nonetheless, this is an impressive, provocative novel by a talented writer. (April 29)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-446-39478-9
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