NIGHT WATCH by Barbara Shoup


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How cancer victims and their families face death or disfigurement amid changing perceptions--in an overly tidy, compact first novel. Grace Percy and Della Bukowski, both from Indiana, both wives of cancer patients, are unlikely companions. Grace, married to Hamilton III, is cool, somewhat prim, reserved; flamboyant Della, married to bar-owner Raymond, living in a Winnebago parked by the hospital, is open, generously confiding. And the stricken husbands, too, are a contrasting pair. Raymond has had mutilating surgery on his face, speaks through a throat tube--but his prognosis is good; and he half-welcomes, half-dreads the visits of daughter Tina, son-in-law Larry, grandchild Honey Jo, and partner Eddie. (How will they react to his grotesque appearance?) Meanwhile, Ham is dying. But, as he has done in the past, Ham removes himself emotionally from Grace and refuses to see her--till the death of his young roommate forces him to reach out. And Grace, in her hotel room, thinks through her past, the serene correctness of the marriage--till she finds new warmth in Delia's spontaneous friendship and in the loving encouragement of Eddie. (He knew Ham's dead brother Willis--whose WW II death traumatized both of them.) At the close, then, the happy Bukowskis will be reunited. And Ham, now determined to observe business as usual as long as possible, returns home with Grace and his two reclaimed daughters. An ambitious, intermittently affecting story--but, with all the neat alignments, oddly pat and antiseptic.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row