ACTRESS IN THE HOUSE

Joseph McElroy, Author . Overlook $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-58567-350-6

After a 14-year hiatus, McElroy (The Letter Left to Me) breaks his silence with a hefty novel that explores the tangled themes of love, obsession, desire and destiny through the interwoven lives of a small circle of friends and acquaintances in contemporary New York City. This convoluted story begins with an actress being slapped viciously by a fellow actor during a performance of a play at a theater in lower Manhattan, an act that binds the fates of Becca, the victim, and Daley, an audience member whose sympathetic gaze meets hers as she reels from the assault. Although the connection between the pair that night is fleeting, Becca soon kindles a relationship when she requests that Daley, a lawyer, handle her eviction case. In the following months, a bond between this unlikely couple grows by zigs and zags, conjured through McElroy's narrative wizardry, his startling images and his keen ability to approach pivotal scenes from a variety of angles. Daley's obsession with the fair-haired actress with the imperfect nose is rendered in brief omniscient flashes, with McElroy painstakingly showing, at a pace that closely imitates real time, how love evolves and deepens. McElroy's electrically charged narrative explores many forms of violence—physical, verbal, emotional and psychological. His attempts to give ordinary events a fateful resonance can sometimes seem strained, and the slow pace of the narrative may put off some readers, but those who persevere will find a rewarding conclusion. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-1-58567-579-1
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