cover image Rowing in Eden

Rowing in Eden

Barbara Rogan. Simon & Schuster, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81414-8

Cancer-ravaged Louise Pollak dies wordlessly on the first page of Rogan's fifth book, her demise facilitated by her loving husband, Sam. She is nonetheless heard loud and clear to the last page of this romance-cum-morality tale. Her voice is kept alive by messengers to the Pollaks' farmhouse in the upstate New York town of Old Wickham. The first such messengers to arrive, moments after Lou's death, are gutsy urban transplant Jane Goncalves and Peter, her bristly but appealing 14-year-old foster son. Jane works at the local bookshop, and she has brought a book that Lou had ordered-Emily Dickinson's poems. There Sam finds what he believes to be Lou's parting message. ""Rowing in Eden!/ Ah, the Sea!/ Might I but moor/ Tonight in thee!"" We feel Sam's hopeless longing, but we know the messenger is also a message from Lou; inevitably, Sam will want to moor in Jane-and his wife would cheer him on. Just as surely, he will have to save a life to pay the karmic debt incurred by killing Lou, no matter that she'd made him promise to do so. Rogan (A Heartbeat Away) delivers action and subplot. Jane has two other foster kids besides Peter; and when arson strikes their home, it's a good bet the blaze is a reflection of how heartily they're unwelcome by the clannish villagers of Old Wickam. Unfortunately, Lou is the one character who really talks; the rest send telegrams. Among the blatant (and stereotyped) messengers: Malachi, the kvetchy mystical defrocked rabbi; Portia, the streetwise black social worker; and Moses the Mutt, who leads Sam to the Promised Land. (June)