COLD HEAVEN by Brian Moore

COLD HEAVEN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Marie Davenport and physician-husband Alex, New Yorkers, are on vacation in Nice when Alex, while swimming, is hit accidentally by a powerboat. Brought to hospital in a coma, he expires--but then the body disappears from the morgue. And then, returning to New York, Marie discovers unmistakable traces of Alex having recently been in the apartment! Terrified, she contacts her doctor/lover Daniel (whom she was on the brink of telling Alex about); she asks him to meet her at the Carmel, California motel where they had their first assignation. But when Marie arrives there, she finds . . . husband Alex in one of the rooms: he's desperately sick, so sick that he keeps dying--then returning to life. And though Marie finds all this terrifying she soon realizes that there's an explanation: a year before, at this same Carmel spot, while walking the headlands by the ocean, she had a vision of the Virgin Immaculate. . . yet said nothing. (She is a lapsed Catholic as well as an adulteress.) So now Marie is sure that her silence about the vision is being used against her, against Alex: each time she denies the vision (the Virgin appears to her yet again), Alex worsens. Finally, then, believing that what's happening to her is a dour, implacable price paid for pleasure (Moore's familiar view of infidelity), Marie goes to a local Monsignor, tells all, and is harassed by grace (a nice irony). . . while the local Church is halting and clumsy about how to handle so compromised a miracle. Moore, pro that he is, keeps holding your attention long after this premise has exhausted itself. But, as with much of his explicitly Catholic-themed work, there's an evasive, spotty quality to his theological approach: the God here is inconsistent, alternately watchful and indulgent, and Marie is ultimately let off the hook by the Monsignor. (""Remember, if you say you saw nothing, nobody can prove otherwise. Except, of course, God. And I think God has let you go."") The reader is off the hook, too: this intriguing, half-satisfying novel is finally an entertainment, a theological Twilight Zone episode, a modernized Bernadette of Lourdes--instead of the electrifying parable that a French writer, a Mauriac or a Leon Bloy, say, might have made out of the premises and tensions of the same material.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston