cover image Boondocking


Tricia Bauer. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $21.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-19-4

The concept is promising: a couple with custody of their baby granddaughter flees across the country in an RV to keep her out of reach of her no-good father. But Bauer (Working Women and Other Stories) can't make this vehicle go anywhere. Still recovering from their daughter's death (in a car accident caused by their stoned son-in-law), Sylvia and Clayton Vaeth are willing to sacrifice everything to raise Rita out of harm's way. As they settle in the front seat, gun the motor and watch their Maryland home of 31 years fade into the distance, we wonder about several things past, present and future: What was their daughter's downfall? What really happened the day she died? Is her widower, Melvin, as evil as Sylvia and Clayton think? We never receive satisfactory answers to these questions. Instead, we watch the trio go from one campground to another, Sylvia and Clayton struggling to maintain their sometimes fragile union amid the strains of raising a child and of fearing that Melvin lurks in the aisles of every gas-station convenience store. The tension becomes less and less palpable as we watch Rita grow up into a pouty preteen on the road. When Melvin does materialize, we're still left in the dark, stuck at arm's length from the characters, for Bauer treats every climactic scene, every chance to get into her characters' skin, with the same stoical frugality, dismissing each in a few unrevealing pages. The novel glides by on its own private highway, its passengers inscrutable, a blur behind the glass. (Sept.)