cover image Darling Clementine

Darling Clementine

Andrew Klavan. Permanent Press (NY), $24 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-932966-81-0

In this short, ironically humorous novel told in the first person, Klavan (Face of the Earth) skillfully depicts poet Samantha Bradford, who must grapple with her troubled past before looking ahead to the future. Superficially, Samantha has an enviable existence. Born in affluent Greenwich, Conn., she graduated from Barnard, then wed wealthy lawyer Arthur Clementine. Nevertheless, distraught at age 24, Samantha seeks help from a Manhattan therapist who resembles ""a rumpled gray suit growing out of the chair.'' With him, she discusses her mother's unkindness, her own suicide attempt and her erotic fantasy about being held captive on a remote island. Samantha also tries other routes to salvation, including Zen, sex and volunteering at a hotline for suicidal people. One pathetic man calling himself God phones Samantha repeatedly; despite their rapport, he poses a potentially lethal threat to her after his sanity gives way. The narrative frequently seems every bit as unfocused and rambling as Samantha's own life, but Klavan's characterizations of his protagonist and her spouse are memorable; they are vulnerable, tender and wonderfully open about their emotions and aspirations. (February)