cover image Dalva


Jim Harrison. Dutton Books, $18.95 (324pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24624-4

A cast of fascinating characters populates the Nebraska farmland where Harrison's fine new novel is set. First among these is Dalva Northridge, a passionate and unconventional woman who, at 45, begins searching for the illegitimate son she bore 30 years earlier. While flashbacks explore Dalva's teenage romance with her son's father, a half-Sioux youth, the story is carried forward through Dalva's current relationships with her wealthy family and with Michael, a history professor. The middle portion of the book, narrated by the alcoholic and debauched Michael, brings a shift in mood. Michael, who is living at the Northridge family ranch while researching journals left by Dalva's great-grandfather, proceeds toward his own incapacitation at a Rabelaisian pitch. Woven through Michael's narrative are excerpts from the journals, which have a great relevance to the history of Nebraska's Native Americans. Harrison (Sundog) offers almost an embarrassment of riches here. Digressing stories of a large number of characterswhile they add to the rich texture of the novelsometimes deflect attention from Dalva herself. That is a small caveat, however, about this lyrical and atmospheric book, which is entertaining, moving and memorable. (March)