The different longings people subsume within the actions of loving others are explored with wry affection: an extremely likable third novel from the celebrated author (Believers, 1997; Shadow Play, 1993, etc.)
It consists of stories told to author Charles Baxter by several of his mutually involved neighbors, beginning when `Charlie,` strolling his hometown's nearly deserted streets on an insomniac midsummer night, sneaks into Michigan Stadium and observes a young couple making love on the football field's 50-yard line, then meets his neighbor Bradley Smith, who (not entirely credibly) pours out the tale of losing his wife Kathryn to another woman. The scope steadily expands, as we become acquainted with Kathryn's version of her marriage's failure, Bradley’s dog (also named Bradley—a rather Anne Taylor–touch); then, in roughly this order, teenaged Chloé (who waitresses at the coffee shop Bradley runs) and her `reformed boy outlaw` sweetheart Oscar; Bradley's next-door neighbor Harry Ginsberg, a doggedly idealistic philosophy professor whose familial happiness is threatened by the anger of his estranged son; Bradley's new wife Diana (who continues her affair with her married lover David); and, yes, others. The Feast of Love achieves an eccentric, fascinating rhythm about halfway through, when its characters' now-established individual stories begin bouncing off one another intriguingly. The novel is quite skillfully (if unconventionally) plotted, and grips the reader's emotions surely as Baxter connects its distinctive dots during some absorbing climactic actions, when the genuine love between Chloé and Oscar (two wonderfully realized characters) takes on an unexpected maturity and gravity.
Just a shade too warm and fuzzy to be fully successful, but awfully entertaining nevertheless. And the Joycean monologue (spoken by Chloé) and graceful acknowledgement of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with which Baxter ends this rueful tale of romantic folly, are the perfect touches.