by Nora Johnson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 5, 1982
In this ""grand tour of some places it has taken me most of my life to understand,"" Johnson continues the sometimes-affecting, sometimes-tiresome psychological journey she began in Flashback (about her relationship with father Nunnally)--while also digressing freely into sociology, travelogues, history, and feminism. First, briefly, comes New York, where mother Marion took little Nora to live when the Johnson marriage broke up in the late 1930s: the household at 204 E. 62nd St. was careless, carefree, with Marion working hard at being ""an elegant divorced lady in a lovely house in the most exciting city in the world."" (See also, of course, The World of Henry Orient.) Then, more surprisingly, the locale is Dhahran, the Arabian American Oil Co.'s main compound in the Saudi Arabian desert--where young newlywed Nora was required to live because of husband Len's job: she vividly evokes the sterile, pink-and-green, bridge-playing company world; she recalls (somewhat repetitiously) her massive frustration, boredom, and rage (at Saudi restrictions, at American non-interest in the local culture); she hints at a rising feminist consciousness. Thus, the next stop will be Dorset, Vermont--the new country house of remarried Marion--where now-divorced Nora (with kids) seeks solace; but ""I wanted to go home to Mom, and I wasn't invited"" . . . because Marion's new husband Rog was jealous and possessive. (An intriguing domestic setup--but one that's diffused here by Johnson's chatty, undistinguished sidetrip into the issue of Vermont gentrification.) And then, some years later, Nora is married again and moving to Larchmont, ""the ultimate suburb"": there are house-owning panics (""what was a storm window?""), nanny problems, mother-in-law problems, a wife-beating neighbor . . . and distinct signs of divorce #2 in the making. So Nora dreams of moving back to childhood-home Beverly Hills, to be with aging father Nunnally--which inspires a flashback to the 1930s domestic turmoil (much of it familiar from Flashback), to the first lost home: ""My heart begins to tear, a long ragged rent which I have spent my life trying to mend."" And the coda is the death of mother Marion--with the discovery of some surprising 1930s diaries, a review of the two-generation marital wreckage (""All of us married to be taken care of""), and a 1981 return to New York City. Often unfocused, then, and sometimes over-moist in the emotional stewing--but a stylishly indirect memoir for the most part: tartly engaging, sprightly in description, and occasionally (when not straining for it) touching.
Pub Date: Nov. 5, 1982
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982
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