cover image Mother of God

Mother of God

Michael Downing. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-69506-4

The latest effort by the author of A Narrow Time begins with young Stephen Adamski's arrest for vandalizing a Jewish temple and his family's shocked reaction. This is the high point of a depressing, clinical account of the destructive control exerted by Stephen's mother, Sylvia, over her husband and four children. Events in the plot are eclipsed by tediously pedestrian analyses of characters' warped motivations and actions: Sylvia's other three children and her husband, Arthur, are so entangled in the pain and chaos caused by her affair with Martin Parris, Arthur's former business partner--and now a judge with the power to prosecute Stephen--that they cannot extricate themselves, let alone help Stephen. Whatever their opinions about the causes of and cure for Stephen's madness, Sylvia enjoys final authority in this matter--she even interprets Stephen's delusions for him, and since his goal is to please her, their Oedipal relationship strengthens as his mental state weakens. There seems to be no hope for Stephen, what with professional incompetence and Sylvia's absolute control. However, since he and his family are neither likable nor inspiring, their sturm und drang will probably be lavished on unsympathetic readers. (May)