Mesmerizing in its simplicity, this second novel from Tuck (Interviewing Matisse, or, the Woman Who Died Standing Up, 1991) lyrically traces one woman's search for spiritual enlightenment and self-fulfillment—or at least for a life away from suburban Connecticut. Reminiscent of Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams, the story is broken into 76 slim, self-contained, dreamlike chapters. Each of these, randomly strung together, builds an engrossing portrait of Adele—a shining star of a woman, so charming and admirable that she draws everyone into her orbit. Her defining feature (and Tuck's recurring theme, repeated in a series of mystic tales on the requirements needed to walk on water) is her courage in the ocean: Bystanders gawk as Adele and her three Irish setters swim out so far they're transformed into dots on the horizon. The narrator is an unnamed friend, an annual companion at the exclusive Caribbean resort Adele and her family frequent, an unabashed admirer of Adele's near-mythic personalty. She pieces together the story of their friendship, of Adele's past, and, most importantly, of Adele's scandalous decision to leave her relatively happy life with husband and two children to follow an Indian guru she meets while vacationing in France. In an attempt to get her home from India, Adele's husband, Howard, promises her a solitary trip to the Caribbean to think things over, sending her dogs down for swimming companionship. It's there that Adele tells about her strange adventures of self-abnegation with the guru, her thinning body and graying hair, and, stranger still, her inability to leave His presence. As each passage shifts into the next, explanations are expected for Adele's abandonment of home and hearth. Instead of answers, though, there come parables of enlightenment that, finally, make a far stronger case for Adele's submission to the guru than any stubbornness or weakness of will. An exquisite, gem-like treatise on the nature of illumination- -a case study of metamorphosis.
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