ROWING IN EDEN by Barbara Rogan


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 The fifth novel by Rogan (A Heartbeat Away, 1993, etc.) takes us down a familiar road and into a thicket of blighted lives whose fortunes hinge upon a timely touch from the finger of God. The opening line sets the pace: ``Even though she'd asked for it, Sam Pollak could not help feeling guilty the day he killed his wife.'' But it's not what you think. Sam's wife Louise has cancer, and he puts her out of her misery at her own request. All the same, Sam is haunted by what he's done, and his guilt compounds his grief to a degree that makes his own life seem unbearable and pointless. A cabinetmaker and carpenter, Sam tries to lose himself in his work, and this brings him into the orbit of Jane Goncalves, a Manhattan social worker who's bought an old house in Sam's upstate village to use as a home for her foster children. While he works on the house, however, some of the local yahoos start agitating to run the children out of town, blaming them for a string of arsons that began as soon as they arrived. Sam keeps out of the politics for a while, but once he takes on one of Jane's children as an assistant, he's quickly drawn into the conflict. His own obsession with Louise's death, moreover, is nourished by a string of anonymous telephone calls he begins to receive late at night from someone who declares, ``I know what you did.'' A defrocked rabbi, a Brooklyn homegirl, several troubled yet adorable street urchins, a horny postmistress, and a gay football player provide some silly digressions from Sam's story. By the end, though he's not been healed of his loss, it's evident that the worst is behind him. Mawkish and overblown: Despite some good characters and a smooth voice, the sentiments are obvious to the point of caricature.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81414-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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