In this earnest but simplistic tale, lesbian lovers are reunited after years of separation when one of them learns she is dying. The novel opens with San Francisco professor Thaddea Owens receiving a letter from her former lover, Frances Cole (Franco), explaining that she's been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and asking Thaddea to spend Christmas with her. The two had fallen in love a decade earlier at Woodbine College, then continued a long-distance relationship while doing graduate work in separate cities. The affair came to an end when Franco announced her intention to move to N.Y.C. and live with Thad again; Thad fled, afraid of being hurt—she believed Franco didn't love her but was simply pursuing professional goals in N.Y.C. Since then, Franco became a scientist, discovered a protein, and then gave up research to teach at Woodbine. Two brief visits ended badly, but Thad has never gotten over Franco. During their Christmas together, in the face of impending disability and death, it turns out that Thad, too, was the love of Franco's life. They learn how Thad's desperation and Franco's fear of intimacy kept their relationship stormy and ultimately separated them. Though Thad wishes to stay with her lover until the end, Franco sends her back to California, to learn to be on her own and to let go, summoning her back to Woodbine only at the last moment before she dies. In telling her tragic tale, second-novelist Lindau (Mrs. Cooper's Boardinghouse, 1980) successfully avoids melodrama, but never makes her characters seem important or real.
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