THE LEGEND OF OLIVIA COSMOS MONTEVIDEO by Constance Warloe

THE LEGEND OF OLIVIA COSMOS MONTEVIDEO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This tedious first novel offers yet another variation on the Diary of a Mad Housewife theme. Roberta and Andrew's only son, Gary, has been killed in Vietnam. Roberta signed papers so he could enlist at 17; Andrew works as an accountant at the Pentagon. Roberta goes to Arlington Cemetery every day; Andrew refuses to join her. Desperate for consolation, or at least unfamiliar surroundings, Roberta gathers up all the Trip-Tiks she can, gets into her car, and takes off. She picks up a hitchhiker (a draft-dodger and protester) to whom she can relate like a mother. When he grabs her purse and runs off, readers suspect his resemblance to Gary might he stronger than Roberta admits. She might think she shared a special bond with her son, but it's obviously not borne out by tales of his drug use or hints at his frequent lies. Upon entering New Mexico in a car about to break down, she spots a fortuitous road sign giving the mileage to three small towns: Olivia, Cosmos, and Montevideo. ""It reads like a name. My own name wilts by comparison."" On impulse she assumes this new, ""exotic, dangerous"" name which, she realizes later, is ""a euphemistic way of saying 'oblivion.' ""It puts her in perfect sync with the New Agers and Do-Gooders she meets in Santa Fe. And this is still less than halfway through this long-winded first-person narrative. If Roberta seems interestingly troubled and a bit quirky in the early pages, by the time she arrives in New Mexico she's simpleminded and egotistical. Warloe attempts to break out of Roberta/Olivia's whining monologue by interweaving several narratives: the present, memories of her life with her husband, memories of her son in various time frames, imaginary conversations she would have had with Gary if he'd returned from Vietnam. A more seasoned writer might have succeeded.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly