THE VIGIL by Clay Reynolds


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First-novelist Reynolds leads off with an arresting situation: a 70-year-old woman stations herself, at intervals, on one particular bench in a remote Texas small town, across the street from one particular store into which her daughter disappeared 30 years before, never to return--30 years during which the mother has kept her vigil. Although not entirely convincing, the mother's deliberate three-decade watch and its crazy backlash in the lonely life of the town's sheriff--plus the mystery of the missing girl--have a certain dramatic force that the author styles with a homely intimacy. Thirty years before, Imogene McBride (now a 70-year-old waitress in a struggling diner) left philandering husband Harvey (and his mansion with five servants) in Atlanta. With pretty, disturbingly seductive, 18-year-old daughter Cora, she set out for her sister's home in Oregon, but the car broke down in the tiny town of Agatite, Texas. During the wait on the courthouse square bench, Imogene watched Cora go for ice cream into Pete's Sundries and Drugs. . . Fifty-nine year-old Sheriff Ezra Holmes will face the furious, terrified Imogene in those first days after Cora's vanishing. Later he will become a friend of sorts, through the months and years, as Imogene, on her bench summer and winter, becomes the gaunt town loony. And the sheriff all the while is haunted by dreams (of Cora, of his dead wife), by muddled and sinister thoughts about his lifelong friend Pete--and by Imogene's savage solitude, which seems to strike a chord in his own. By the third cold winter, while Imogene is now thinking vengeance on a town that has visited such horrors on her, Ezra, wrestling with his impossible love for an impossible woman, begins to make some dangerous mistakes--on the occasion of a cattle-rustling stakeout, and on that fateful Halloween of their first date, when a bungled proposal ends their friendship--and the town kids have something nasty planned for the bench sitter. At the close, Cora's fate having been revealed (Ezra kept the secret), Imogene, a survivor, surveys ""her"" town: ""She had a claim on it [the townspeople] could never make."" Although the principals are not carved in the round, the small-town ambiance is still convincing, and the situation packs a wallop.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's