AN UNMARRIED MAN by Darryl Ponicsan


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Ben Nauman, forty-ish, is a successful wood carver whose twelve-year marriage to Fran has been whittled down to about nil. Fran's spreading figure has had something to do with this marital deterioration, and so has the discrepancy (as Fran sees it) between their abilities to express themselves creatively--she keeps house, he gets into People magazine. So the rancor builds, the decision to split is made, the child (Paula) is informed, the excessive reactions are enacted (Ben buys a .375 Magnun with which to dispatch his brains), and the lawyers are hired: ""I'm not going to blow sunshine up your ass. . . . Divorce is another country. You lose your passport there. Finally it's easier to keep them. . . ."" Then--Ben rents a beach house, where his upstairs neighbor turns out to be beautiful LupÉ, an American Indian actress with a 13-year-old illegitimate son. It's love--and sex, fabulous sex--at first sight. But Fran gets wind of LupÉ and tightens the financial cinches momentarily. Does Ben care? No, he doesn't: he can think of worse fates than to be bankrupted for LupÉ's sake. Let Fran bleed him; he's found the woman. Ponicsan (The Last Detail, Cinderella Liberty) can't take this pat romantic premise too far, and, rather to his credit, he doesn't much try. True, the sex/creativity rapturousness is laid on a little thick. But the novel generally preserves its down-to-earth verisimilitudes--about money, about divorce, about lawyers--and ends up as a minor-key parable with a certain immediacy and a distinct appeal to those with firsthand knowledge of the divorce nightmare.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1980
Publisher: Delacorte