Books by John L’Heureux

Released: Dec. 3, 2019

"Moral tales full of love and irony written by a master."
A sweeping posthumous collection wrestles with faith, irony, and the redemptive nature of love. Read full book review >
THE MIRACLE by John L’Heureux
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Deeply moving and personal, told with restraint and great skill."
A finely crafted story of a young priest's crisis of faith (and love) is the latest success from novelist (and ex-priest) L'Heureux (Having Everything, 1999, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

A kind of biblical sojourn among the very lost tribes of Harvard, as L'Heureux (The Handmaid of Desire, 1996, etc.) envisions the sorrows of Job being visited upon a righteous psychiatrist. Any story that begins with a testimonial dinner in honor of an ambitious man on the verge of achieving his life's goal is almost guaranteed to be a rough ride. Philip Tate has had it pretty easy so far: he's now a talented psychiatrist teaching at Harvard Medical School, but his career has been a steady incline from the day he entered college. He and his wife Maggie live in a tastefully done-up home in Cambridge and have two lovely, intelligent children: Cole (a medical student at Johns Hopkins) and Emma (a Berkeley coed doing archaeological research in Greece). Philip has just been informed that he's to be awarded the Goldman Chair, which puts him on the short list of candidates being considered to succeed the outgoing Dean of the Medical School. But there are a few problems. For one thing, Maggie is a hopeless drunk. And Philip is a compulsive housebreaker, given to picking the locks of his friends" homes late at night just for the thrill of it. On one such expedition, he's discovered by Dixie Kizer, also a drunk, who's married to Hal Kizer, a colleague of Philip's. In a clumsy attempt to explain himself, Philip ends up sleeping with Dixie. He tries to do the right thing, breaking off the affair at once and finding psychiatric help for her, but this only complicates matters further. Maggie returns to school and leaves Philip, Emma declares herself a lesbian, Cole starts an embarrassing affair of his own with Dixie, and Hal's compulsion for S&M sex becomes ever more extreme. Philip is tapped as the new dean. Then all hell breaks loose . . . . Witty and interesting, but overdone even so: If L'Heureux was aiming at a David Lodge sort of thing, he missed, hitting a lot closer to Grace Metallious. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

An intermittently droll send-up of the confusions and conceits of the intelligentsia and of academic life from Stanford professor L'Heureux, author of 14 previous novels (The Shrine at Altamira, 1992, etc.). Olga Kominska, unlike most of her university colleagues, has a pretty clear mission in mind: ``Her task was to rescue some lost souls from the effects of their scandals, satisfy a few passions, answer some importunate prayers, and, on the side, to teach a little course in feminist drama and another in literary theory.'' Although her origins are never made clear, Olga's European accent gives her a certain cachet within the very hip English department of a California university struggling to remake itself into an Institute of Theory and Discourse. Olga, above such petty strife, has higher goals in mind. When Robbie Richter, who built his career on a study of the hermeneutics of The Hardy Boys, suffers what everyone hopes will be his final nervous breakdown, Olga predicts his full recovery. The general astonishment at his revival turns to widespread awe when Richter not only resumes his teaching but transforms himself into a competent scholar. A succession of apparent miracles in which Olga seemingly has a hand ensues: A barren couple conceive, a creative-writing professor completes a readable novel, and a failed socialite becomes the hostess of a successful TV talk show. Although most normal people would want to find out just who Olga is and what kind of hat she pulls her rabbits from, the academics on whom she works her magic are too removed from reality to notice that its laws are being flouted and prefer to understand her according to the categories of Foucault and Derrida—which give them less than a clue. Within a world that has banished mystery from its precincts, L'Heureux suggests, there can be no explanations. Witty and sharp, but not nasty enough for satisfying satire and too far-fetched for comedy. An in-house joke that won't play off campus. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

The latest by the author of An Honorable Profession (1991), etc., takes its cue from the most gruesome of headlines—the sort of story that forces us to contemplate the nature of evil. But L'Heureux's prologue, with its talk of ``we'' (i.e., civilized readers) and ``they'' (i.e., those lower-class types who commit such heinous crimes), suggests how difficult it is for him to get inside his characters, to transcend sociological explanations for their behavior. Mexican-American Maria Alvarez, a dark teenaged beauty, thinks that blond and blue-eyed Russell Whitaker is her ticket out of the ``hot and dirty and hopeless'' San Jose ghetto. But Russell, the son of a violent alcoholic, is incapable of breaking the cycle of abuse that has literally scarred him for life. A reluctant husband, Russell soon develops an all-consuming passion for his bride, finding ``salvation'' in her eyes. When a son arrives and Maria turns her full attention to the beautiful boy, Russell becomes ``weak and needy,'' given to drunken outbursts. Before she allows herself to join in the decline, Maria loses weight, goes back to school, gets a good job, and files for divorce. Meanwhile, Russell hits bottom, living on the streets until his obsession with his ex- wife leads to an act so horrifying that we'd reject it as implausible if it hadn't in fact happened in recent times—Russell, in a fit of trancelike anger, sets his young son on fire. From there on, the novel balances the sad tale of young John's long and painful recovery with the predictably awful experiences Russell endures in jail. A number of side stories clutter a novel that already leaps forward too quickly in time. And the big questions about guilt, salvation, God's will, etc., all seem grafted onto a melodramatic (though gripping) plot. The ``terrible'' thought L'Heureux warns us about is not all that original—that evil has a human face and is committed by ordinary people. Despite the banal notions and bland prose, the incendiary subject makes this novel both painful and poignant. Read full book review >

This drab and perfunctory fiction from the author of Comedians, A Woman Run Mad, etc., raises some interesting—though hardly original—questions concerning guilt, innocence, and salvation. And it does so from L'Heureux's distinctly Catholic point of view, with lots of spiritual anguish and self-recrimination. Miles Bannon, a dutiful son and a compassionate teacher, is guilty of many things, but none as bad as the deed for which he is wrongly accused—a sexual affair with a teen-age boy. A 35-year-old English teacher much liked by his students, Miles lives at home with a mother dying from Lou Gehrig's disease. His circumscribed domestic life is somewhat relieved by his ongoing affair with his first and only lover, Margaret, a divorced accountant who expects Miles to save her through marriage once his mother dies. Intensely guilt-ridden for wishing his mother's nightmarish life to end, Miles responds to her eventual death—and his new-found freedom—by unleashing his long-repressed self. A one-night stand with a pick-up from a gay bar convinces him he's not homosexual, despite his many homoerotic thoughts. And an affair with his department head, a fiery redhead with much pent-up passion of her own, cures many of his self-doubts as a heterosexual lover. Meanwhile, the neglected Margaret descends into depression and drug abuse, and one of Miles's students, a quiet boy who was cruelly raped with a broom handle by some jocks, develops a crush for the only teacher who seems to care. But an embarrassing sexual rebuke from Miles leads to the boy's suicide—an event that tears apart the school and leads the boy's tough-cop father to investigate Miles, whose life begins to unravel. Every private indiscretion comes back to haunt him publicly, and both women more or less abandon him, confirming Miles's sense of life as just so much "ugliness, misery, and piss." Despite it all, things resolve themselves neatly, though no one is fully absolved. A number of Hitchcock films and Ian McEwan's recent The Innocent handle the same themes with far more suspense and artistry. L'Heureux's dull prose and depthless characters can't propel this sputtering melodrama. Read full book review >