Balancing Pole

Ann L. McLaughlin, Author John Daniel & Company Books $9.95 (182p) ISBN 978-0-936784-90-8
Unsettled by a move with her husband Terry and their young children to Berkeley in the fall of 1959, Margo Sullivan, a part-time portraitist of children, suddenly falls into a manic-depressive cycle, unable to care for her family or to paint. As she loses her delicate grasp on reality, her relations with Terry, her sister and her aloof father change in unsettling ways. A suicide attempt puts Margo in a hospital, where an understanding doctor finally helps restore balance to her precarious situation. While the story is told mainly from Margo's and Terry's points of view, brief, ineffectual narratives by the Sullivan children and several other characters interrupt Margo's own strong telling of her slide from mundane domesticity into madness. McLaughlin ( Lightning in July ) can sometimes turn an evocative phrase (``The sound enclosed us with soft rings that hung, trembling, before they dissolved'') and renders Margo and Terry sympathetic characters, but these qualities are ultimately overshadowed by a choppy narrative structure. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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