THE MAN WHO OWNED VERMONT by Bret Loll

THE MAN WHO OWNED VERMONT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This modest and moving first novel concerns the break-up of a marriage, conventional material but for the twist: this couple belongs together. Lott discerns the drama in ordinary life, and creates a convincingly plain narrator--a confused but decent man who needs ""to sort things out."" Though the solution to Rick Wheeler's problem is simple, it takes him a long time--the course of the novel--to figure it out. When Paige, his wife, leaves him, this RC Cola salesman in Northampton, Mass., loses himself in his work--the details of which Lott relishes. The lingo of product and the mechanics of sales provide Wheeler, and the reader, diversion from the sorrow and pain that characterize his marriage, which he remembers in fits and starts. For all the domestic this recalled, there are plenty of moony interludes. But Wheeler refuses to admit his responsibility for his wife's miscarriage--refuses even to talk about it. Instead, he finds himself trying ""to connect"" with everyone but her when she leaves. There's Lonny, the plumber, who shows up to repair a leak, and promises to take him hunting someday. There's Cal, a store manager on Rick's route, who makes up for his loutishness with good intentions. And there's Rose, the divorcee, who, despite her attraction to Rick, persuades him of his overwhelming love for his wife. in the end, when he shows up where Paige is staying, he's ready to bury his false pride and begin the slow process of reconciliation--a reunion she also wants. As in so many American novels by men, a hunting episode leads to self-discovery. The power of place and the force of common sense here make the mundane mysterious. Lott's impressive debut is all the more formidable for its willingness to hope.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking