Much ado about golfing.
Ross Lansdale spends his 1950s childhood in a Catholic orphanage under the tutelage of kindly Father Martin, an avid golfer who pauses before a shot—playing in the moonlight, no less—to give this unlikely speech to the boys gathered around him: “Every love story is a small boat set upon an open sea. And those things that imperil it, the winds of betrayal, the waves of fear and doubt, are also what earn its dignity in our memory.” He also dispenses advice on how to achieve the perfect swing, which bumbling, bashful young Ross is determined to learn. Time passes. The lonely young boy grows up and becomes a lonely young English instructor with a kindly secretary named Donna, whose chirpy inquiries—“penny for your thoughts, Professor Lansdale”—trigger still more poignant soul-searching. Suffering quietly through life’s vicissitudes, hitting thousands upon thousands of balls into the air before he becomes proficient if not perfect, Lansdale thinks of more deep questions for the bored freshmen under his tutelage at Amherst. Is there love after Herman Melville? Yes! A beautiful student from a working-class background seems interested in golf. Julia’s keen thinking has been shaped by a Seven Sisters college, but she fixes cars and loves her folks—oh, the joy in her eyes when she talks about her family!—and Lansdale is overcome. And Julia looks just like a young Elizabeth Taylor, 1969-style eyeliner and all. Years pass. Love and loss loom large, as do the Old Course and championship at St. Andrews (putt, putt, and watch the birdie—lots of golf talk here). But Julia reappears, with long, silver hair, to succor Lansdale’s lonely heart and dispense kindly advice—by the light of a pale moon, of course. Filled with beauty and pain—and some very pretentious writing—Lansdale’s life comes full circle.
The elegiac tone does little for a lugubrious love story, nor is the golfing scene on the cover likely to entice romance readers.