Idle Curiosity

Martha Bergland, Author Graywolf Press $22.95 (184p) ISBN 978-1-55597-257-8
In this beautifully observed novel by the author of A Farm Under a Lake, what there is of a plot unfolds gently but with moving impact. Early one morning, retired farmer Ed Check stands outside the old hotel where he lives in Half Moon, Ill., musing about a dream he had about one--he's not sure which--of his three daughters. Ed knows that his family--two daughters by one ex-wife, his youngest by another--is as transitory as the farm he leased (now owned by his dominating first wife, Edith, who also owns the hotel he lives in). ""They did what they wanted or they did what they could; his wanting them didn't move them at all."" Yet, within hours his middle daughter, Janet, does appear, come to stay in the hotel until she decides whether to try to salvage or to leave a troubled marriage. Soon, a handsome stranger enters the scene, too. Nelson Alvin (""rhymes with ball peen"") pulls up in front of the hotel asking for directions, and Ed's natural kindness brings Alvin and Janet together into a dance of attraction that reminds Ed of his passion for his second wife, Marlene, an alcoholic who ran off with his daughter, Vickie, 14 years earlier. Ed is accused by Edith of doing nothing but watching as Janet's marriage unravels. Yet, aware that the days when he could hold his family together are over, he sets out to find his youngest daughter and bring her home. In lean, nuanced prose, Berglund creates splendidly realized characters who are as earthy and authentic as rich farmland soil. Her lovely tale shows how good things really do come to those who wait with an open heart. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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