WINTER DOVES by David Cook
Kirkus Star


Email this review


As painfully moving as Walter (p. 6), to which this is a sequel, this biting yet curiously warming novel continues the story of a retarded man, still obediently being a ""good boy"" at the age of forty-six, in the mental hospital where he'd been sent 19 years before after the death of his parents. Now, in 1977, Walter will know again for a brief time the happy feeling ""Jesus had meant him to have,"" and at the center, a self. By now the hospital is sleekly up to date (swimming pool, dances), and there's a new unit for mothers with postnatal depression, among them June--bright, caustically witty, committed to suicide ""once for every year of my life."" She and Walter will meet for what is at first a one-sided dialogue (Walter remembers his voice had been described as ""a fart in soapy water"" and Walter does not want to offend). Walter does not judge June; June is one who never corrects him. She's from the world outside the gates, a real world in which he is not one of ""Jesus' mistakes."" The pair escape, and Walter will have his first experience of sex in a crumbling, deserted country church while in a morning of colored light and bird-song a blind woman plays Bach. June, and Walter following in adoration, arrive in London, to roam through the underculture of the homeless, sick, and drifting, and June tilts against oily officialdom and callous police. Within June's euphoric/melancholic swings Walter is happy. He remembers now how his father, sharing his joy in racing pigeons, looked down on Walter, ""accepting the fact that Walter was his, belonging to him. . .now that Walter and June. . .his mother had been right, that Jesus did love him."" But within the complexities of June's corrosive illness lies a new awareness: that Walter is ""the only person in the world who can make me feel guilty."" The close is cruel, brutal, final. Only in nightdreams do his father's pigeons fly for Walter and ""cut the clean air for their delight and his."" With compassion knife-edged in anger on behalf of society's victims, penned or bullied or swept out of sight. A very contemporary tale, cleanly narrated without sentiment, but with an energetic humanity.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1985
Publisher: Overlook--dist. by Viking