Near Canaan

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $18.95 (332p) ISBN 978-0-88184-627-0
When N.Y.C. filmmaking student Buddy Gates turns up in Naples, Va., ostensibly to make a short documentary as a class project, he has actually come to his mother's home town searching for an explanation of her death in faraway Connecticut. He encounters two middle-aged brothers who once loved her: Gil, a sensitive stutterer who says almost nothing yet sees nearly everything, and Jack, who exhibits a manly taciturnity. Gradually Buddy's presence serves to reveal why Gil and Jack have not spoken in years: they share a dark secret about the long-ago disappearance of Beth Gates's first child. This first novel disappoints in several regards: the characters are, for the most part, literary warhorses; the prose is often overripe (``Goodbye was always in her, from the first,'' says Jack of Beth); and Schwartz's southern gothic landscape seems small-town generic. Still, the author wins us over with her undeniable gift for old-fashioned storytelling. If readers can accept her limitations as a stylist, they'll be seduced by the tension accumulating as the characters' intimately intertwined histories and mysteries are gradually unveiled. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
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