A COLD SPRING by Edra Ziesk


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Melodramatic tale about a pair of New Yorkers who come gallumphing into a small Vermont town and manage to set off a chain reaction of ugly events within a rather short period of time.

Second-novelist Ziesk (Acceptable Losses, 1997) seems out to impress but not to hook readers with a rather inert and overly described setup that isn’t helped by a haphazard introduction of her cast. Billy and Nell have just moved to the town of Amity, ostensibly so that Billy can start up a restaurant. But as a couple, they’re a mess, with Billy out of work and Nell growing increasingly sick of the inconsiderate oaf she married. Neighbor Lenny runs a greenhouse and looks after her grandson Jody, a gentle but silent teenager left in her care as an infant by her irresponsible son. James is a kindly high-school teacher who also lives nearby, and seems to be taking an inordinate amount of interest in Nell. Eli is a gruff older man who has a thing for Lenny but is kept too busy looking after his own brood, one of whom is giving the high -chool administration a headache. On a whim, Billy decides to drive down to New York again and bring back Fernando, a Mexican immigrant he thinks will make a great chef at their new restaurant. The numerous, almost invisible ways in which a small town can be intimately tied together are illustrated here in a near-cartoonish fashion. There isn’t a character who doesn’t have some sort of potentially explosive relationship with every other character, and they’re all egregious stereotypes, especially the patiently suffering Fernando. It doesn’t take much to set the whole thing off, but for a story that has all the trappings of a hothouse scandal machine, Ziesk’s elaborately patient style leaches the drama from just about every scenario.

Not much here, beyond some show-offy prose and stock types.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 2002
ISBN: 1-56512-314-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001