Wiggins's latest (after Eyeless Eden, 1995, etc.) has its moments of strong pull but suffers badly from the strains of a...

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Wiggins's latest (after Eyeless Eden, 1995, etc.) has its moments of strong pull but suffers badly from the strains of a cripplingly jejune star and an authorial craving for Big Significance. Holden Garfield is eight years out of Harvard and in the US again after having spent those years in Bosnia reporting for Newsweek. The atrocities he saw, especially in the ""killing field of Srebrenica,"" have plunged him into a career-crisis of perfervid self-doubt (""Something must have happened./He'd remember in a minute./Where do dreams go when they die?""). In Europe, he knew the journalist nonpareil Noah John, who, it happens, has a sister in Richmond, Virginia, in hysterical amnesia from the unspeakable experience of seeing her husband and four sons all killed. Named Melanie, she can now remember the distant past and the present but nothing in the middle, including her own identity-and the doctor thinks that Noah could help, being trusted brother and able to fill her in gently about who she is and what's happened. Trouble is, Noah's all tied up-by international intrigue, you might guess if you'd read Wiggins's previous book-and can't make it to Virginia. Enter Holden, who goes to see what he can do, falls in love with Melanie at first sight (in the hospital ward), finds out that Noah is in South Dakota and can't budge, and then, against doctor's advice, pops Melanie into a van and heads west. On the road, things deteriorate appallingly as Holden makes love like crazy (against more doctor's advice) with Melanie, reveals himself to have about as much depth or sensitivity as a spoiled teenager, and clumsily brings about tale's end. Best sections are those about Melanie's clinical diagnosis; worst those when dim Holden (""'. . . no,' he finally has the balls to tell her"") takes absurd charge (""he's in waaaay over his head with this one. . .""). Ambitious enough, but every seam shows and the frame is wrenched.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1998

ISBN: 0671038605

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998