cover image Future Forward

Future Forward

Susan Beth Pfeffer. Delacorte Press, $13.95 (123pp) ISBN 978-0-440-50140-4

Erskine ( Lady of Hay ) undertakes an ambitious dual plot with middling success in this novel of romance and the supernatural. Her tale interlaces the lives of two women: Isobel of Fife, an actual 13th-century heroine of Scotland's bloody wars to win freedom from the English monarchs; and Clare Royland, a fictional modern-day descendant destined to undergo a contemporary version of Isobel's suffering in order to free her ancestor's spirit from bondage to their ancestral home, Duncairn. Chronicling her rebellion against her husband and England, Isobel's fictionalized biography is absorbing and richly textured, standing on its own as a drama of love and patriotism with a bittersweet ending. Clare's story, a contemporary romantic thriller about domestic brutality and the machinations of greedy developers and shady investment brokers, simply cannot match the historical saga's emotional impact. The book's overall structure founders, ironically due to Erskine's consummate skill in bringing the past to life: Isobel's adventures are characterized by taut suspense, while Clare's are mere melodrama. Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; Literary Guild alternate. (Nov.)