cover image Live from Earth

Live from Earth

Lance Olsen. Ballantine Books, $7.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-345-36916-1

Husband Bink dies in a snowy plane crash. Wife Clare grieves, but doesn't attend the funeral. Does she sense that the marriage is not over? Clare may or may not be hallucinating, but Bink returns as a ghost, uttering such enigmatic phrases as ``People say there's going to be peace. . . . They say this is the end of the world'' and giving bad advice, telling her to date her piggish art teacher. Or he tickles her. This is a romance with a supernatural twist, but the ghostly aspect is the least interesting element as Olsen touchingly portrays the couple's passionate love. He also peppers the pages with gripping flashbacks of Bink's days in the Vietnam war--including a bizarre scene in which he and his colleagues hunt elephants from a helicopter--and portraits of Bink's old friends, who are equally odd and intriguing, such as Goose, with his theory of antiparanoiap. 118 . But these diverse elements, though often clever, never fully cohere, and Bink's parents, stereotyped as the quintessentially difficult in-laws--his father tells racist jokesp. 59, 60 --are merely tiresome. This is Olsen's first novel; he shows promise enough to warrant watching. (Jan.)