HOME FREE by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hailey again falls short of her earlier achievement, A Woman of Independent Means (1978), with this insipid tale of a Los Angeles housewife who turns her rage over her husband's desertion onto a personal crusade to rescue the homeless. When 45-year-old Kate Hart is abandoned by husband Cliff--a selfish, narcissistic film director--Kate's outrage leads her to invite the first homeless person she meets into her house for a bath, a chat, and a hot meal. To her surprise, Ford (named after the make of car he was born in) is homeless not because of drugs or laziness but because the bank foreclosed on his farm and now he can't find a job. Lonely in her rambling house, Kate spontaneously invites Ford, his wife, and two children to live with her until they can afford a place of their own. Her decision may be influenced by Ford's muscular handsomeness as much as by his blameless plight. In any case, Kate's subsequent discovery of Cliffs many betrayals over their 25-year marriage sends her completely over the edge: She invites more homeless people into her house; devises a scheme to housesit for well-to-do friends in exchange for housing strangers in their empty rooms; and decides to sell her own house and use the proceeds to renovate run-down homes for those who have none. All the while she virtuously resists seducing Ford, even though his wife--who struggles with the kids, her job as a grocery checker, the humiliation of accepting charity from a stranger, and a new unwanted pregnancy--is obviously no competition. By the time errant Cliff tries to return, a more confident (or is it fanatical?) Kate says no--though he's allowed to share their former home with her adopted vagrants. A Christmas Story sans Tiny Tim--and an incredibly unrealistic fantasy.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1990
ISBN: 385-29914-1
Publisher: Delacorte
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