Christopher Kenworthy, Author . Serpent's Tail $15 (282p) ISBN 978-1-85242-637-8

This tale of crash-and-burn love in 1990s Britain is half road-movie, half travelogue of the soul. Redolent with tossed-off but alluring hints of inner exploration, it occasionally rises to moments of surprising suspense. As the novel begins, Nick, a young art teacher, receives a call from an old girlfriend, Wendy. The call triggers a book-length recollection of their affair, a mix of unbridled sexuality and spiritual solace. The two artists fall in love quickly and easily. They have an introspective, off-again-on-again relationship, more on than off. Then Nick accompanies Wendy and her mother, Linda, as they flee from Wendy's quietly ominous—and potentially violent—father, Laurence, who follows the trio across England, from one country inn to another. Always amorous, Nick begins having sex with Linda, left wanton by her passionless marriage, until she ends up back with Laurence. In the present, three years after Nick and Wendy's last breakup, Wendy has called Nick because she has plunged into abject depression. She drifts in and out of hospitals, coming to a jarringly sad end. Kenworthy aptly captures Nick's disenchanted, youthful voice, that of a sensitive person who is unsure what to do with his life but has lived enough to understand human nature. Although the rambling character of his thoughts mutes the tale somewhat, the twists and turns of the plot are still captivating. At times the drifting lives of Kenworthy's characters seem hardly worth chronicling, but the book's observant protagonist, reminiscent of one of Irvine Welsh's misanthropes, keeps our attentions focused. Kenworthy is a master of the believable, and here he has written a stingingly bittersweet novel. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
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