MERCY ROAD by Dalia Pagani


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 A rough-hewn Vermont family, after years of accumulated hurt, bursts apart and scatters in this intense, unsparing debut from short-fiction writer Pagani. When Earl marries Darlene, two clans that have long settled beneath the ghostly ridge of the Green Mountains join together, although no one takes much pleasure in the union. Darlene soon realizes that her trapper husband is an inveterate loner and emotional cripple, and that in her own neediness and inexperience she has confused lust with love. But three children come along to keep her busy, especially the second son, Sid, who barely survived his own birth and now has become a weak, inarticulate youth for whom Earl has only contempt. Once Sid and the others--strapping Butch and bookish Tina--are into their teens, however, the misery Darlene has endured for years at last overwhelms her. One fine day, she grabs the little money she's saved, turns her back on both the ridge and her family, and runs off to New York City. Without her, the others quickly lose their bearings: Tina attends a New Age women's solstice celebration, and Earl, outraged at this betrayal of their hardscrabble roots, pursues her with his boys--and his gun. He kills a deer with a shot that could easily have hit Tina, causing her to flee to the wildness of the ridge, while Sid goes home to attempt suicide, leaving Butch to find and save him. Tina winters on the ridge, living in caves and eating rabbits she's caught, but she loses her feet and her mind in the process. When Darlene at length learns that New York is no place for her, she comes back, just in time to witness the success of Sid's next effort to kill himself. A bleak tale that suggests the compelling beauty of a dream, even as it clings to the brink of melodramatic excess.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32016-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997