cover image Stranger's House

Stranger's House

Bret Lott. Viking Books, $17.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82246-1

Lott, author of The Man Who Owned Vermont, writes here from the point of view of Claire Templeton, a lab technician living in New England. She and her husband Tom have been trying for years to have a baby. They have also been searching for the perfect home: a Cape style ``fixer-upper.'' The day after they find their dream house, Claire is bitten by a pregnant rabbit, a laboratory test animal. That night she has a vivid nightmare about her own, unborn, children. She starts to brood about her past: her father's death and her mother's fears. When the Templetons return to the house they meet the caretakersteenager Grady, and Martin, a mentally retarded older man, who is, notwithstanding, an expert carpenter. Having been hired to help renovate the house, Grady and Martin gradually tell about their lives, slowly revealing the victimization each has suffered. The love and care that they show each other saves Claire, obsessed with her childlessness and her memories, from an incipient breakdown. Lott hits some emotional bulls-eyes in his portrait of the loving but unhappy Templetons, especially as Claire achieves understanding of her parents' role in her life and in her own marriage, but the narrative often lapses into a sentimentality that threatens to overwhelm it. (August)