cover image LUCKY US


Joan Silber, . . Algonquin, $22.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-320-5

An unlikely couple weather a crisis in this forthright novel about love and accommodation. Elisa, a 20-something flighty artist, and Gabe, a bookish, much older former drug dealer and ex-con, meet and fall in love in New York City. Their voices, strong and distinctive, grant immediacy to alternating chapters, in which their future takes an unexpected form. Just before they are to be married, Elisa's discovery that her name is an acronym for the AIDS test she is about to take—enzyme linked immuno-sorbent assay—moves her to laughter. But when she discovers she is HIV positive, she turns against the stable and caring Gabe. PEN/ Hemingway Award winner Silber (for Household Words) is unsparing in her description of what it is like to live with AIDS. "I woke up further and remembered that all the moistures of my body were not simple anymore, that my leaking female self was slick with danger." Deep in denial about her mortality, Elisa betrays Gabe by reigniting an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Jason, who is also living with AIDS. Her path of self-destruction is grounded in guilt, but it eventually leads to personal growth and acceptance. The sex, drugs and older man/younger woman angle are familiar themes, but Silber's tender tale of how Elisa and Gabe develop a loving, mature relationship is delivered with clear-eyed candor and not a whit of sentimentality. Agent, Geri Thoma. (Oct.)