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From Granta-award finalist and acclaimed story writer Rossi (Split Skirt, 1994, etc.), a well-orchestrated second novel, consistently probing and upbeat, in which three people get their hearts’ desires by willfully transcending suffering and doubt. The Depression-struck factory town of Paterson, New Jersey, is perhaps an unlikely place to find fulfillment, but that’s where engineer Edward Devlin decides to go in 1934 after burying his young wife, Agnes, in Ireland. He gives their daughter, Maura, into the care of his spinster sisters, since in his wild grief he can think only of leaving everything behind. Paterson for Edward means Fitzgibbon, a successful Irish factory owner who may help him make a fresh start. Sure enough, Fitz welcomes Edward with open arms after hearing his story and soon finds him a good job. But as Edward begins his new life in the home of his benefactor, he slowly discovers that he’s attracted to Fitz’s wife, Sylvia, and that the feeling is mutual. Frustrated by a childless marriage and unsatisfied by charity work, Sylvia has dreamed of a release; she and Edward share a neediness, it seems, that Fitz in all his self-sufficiency could never imagine. The pair’s happiness together is undermined by the burden of their deceit, even after Edward finds his own apartment and they can become lovers at their leisure. But when Fitz—who recognizes the affair as the ticket to his own freedom—begins divorce proceedings, all are well on their way to having exactly what they want. On the periphery of this equation is Maura, who languishes in a convent school back in Ireland but remains unshakeable in her conviction that her father will come to get her. She too is ultimately triumphant. In lesser hands this would be the stuff of melodrama, but here it’s transformed into a story remarkable for its fluidity and grace. A rare accomplishment.

Pub Date: Jan. 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-525-94365-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999


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