Greenberg, as evidenced in her last collection of short stories (High Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1980), invests a good deal of...



Greenberg, as evidenced in her last collection of short stories (High Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1980), invests a good deal of creative energy and invention in metaphysical speculation concerning modern Judaism; but her characters tend merely to function rather than be, and in this novel most get short shrift. Middle-aged Grace Dowben, wife of bland storekeeper Saul and mother of two alienated grown children, weathers some devastating inner storms through one year in her small Pennsylvania home-town. At the Jewish New Year, Grace is still grieving over the loss of son Joshua, now a member of a Hare Krishna-type sect, and over the cool distance of daughter Miriam, a divorced, militant California feminist whose small daughter Grace never sees. On Yom Kippur, she meditates on the weakening of Judaism through negations (such as her children's) and its near-obliteration by the Holocaust, conjuring up ghosts from the concentration camps who admonish her to ""live out their unlived joys. . . . Take delight."" And indeed the year will bring Grace an odd and unseemly love--when young, bearded Benjamin Sloan, worker for a local institution for disturbed kids, joins the town's Fire and Rescue team (Grace is a permanent member). Through working together and genial visits to the Dowben home, through their talks about Jewish-born Ben's lack of religious tradition, a bewildered Grace, in amusement and anxiety, monitors their growing mutual attraction. And it is not until their ""almost"" affair happens--plus Grace's violent reaction to the suicide of a young man--that she's able to sort out her hopes and agonies: her ""incestuous"" chase for a lost son; her determination to preserve Judaism and ""an endangered species."" Finally, then, Ben will leave town while Grace and Saul and Saul's mother Riva (whose brave battle against her encroaching blindness reinforces the image of courage), see enrichment and continuity ahead as a softening Miriam allows her daughter to visit at last. There's an uneasy balance of three vari-toned elements here: several Welby-style, heavily medical ambulance tours; a May/September romance between a ruefully witty, oven-cleaning community worker and an exceedingly noble/dull young man; and those quick, bright religious speculations. Take your choice--but somehow they just don't mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1981