BLUE BEL AIR by Brett Laidlaw


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Young love, an old car, and the secret desire that can never be articulated--at least not in the American Midwest--are the highlights of this precious, ponderous summer romance featuring a marginal meÉnage à trois, the lesser sequel to Laidlaw's debut, Three Nights in the Heart of the Earth (1988). Bryce Fraser is again the narrator, but now a reporter for the local weekly and no longer the child describing circumstances surrounding his poet-father's suicide. He meets the brilliant but brittle Sylvia Stenmark through a mutual friend, Carla, and quickly falls in love, a process the gift of her grandmother's blue '62 sedan seems to hasten. Getting to know the woman, however, proves to be a more prickly assignment, as Bryce is thwarted by her moods and at times is unable even to locate her. He goes to the lab complex where she works as a killer of research mice but cannot find her in the labyrinth; he attends her family's Fourth of July picnic, hating nearly everyone there, but is unable to follow when she leaves in a huff after fighting with her mother, and decamps in a huff of his own when she doesn't come home that night; they make up briefly, but when he wonders aloud whether she'll ever really be able to include him in her long-term plans, she runs away, belting him in the face when he tries to stop her. Not exactly an ideal relationship. He tries to gain insight from Carla regarding Sylvia's state of mind, but eventually he gets the message, leaving Gran's car in the driveway from whence it came and going away sadder but wiser. Occasionally lively, but more often terminally introspective: a sequel that milks its situation dry, and unfortunately the rustlings in the husk suggest that the last has not been heard from the baffled Bryce Fraser.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Norton