LOVE, INFIDELITY, AND DRINKING TO FORGET by Elizabeth Gundy

LOVE, INFIDELITY, AND DRINKING TO FORGET

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A New York couple tries life in the backwoods of Atlantic Canada--through eight rambling years' worth of sit-corn tribulations, fine local eccentricities, and more serious (but superficially inserted) crises. Circa 1970 antique-dealer Daniel and book-jacket artist Sara leave the Village for a just-bought old farmhouse up beyond the Maine/New Brunswick border. The usual unforeseen problems quickly proliferate; then the house burns down (with Sara's cats inside); there's a temporary ordeal/sojourn in a cabin without heat or electricity--until Daniel, with an assortment of quirky builders, manages to get a new house put up. . . more or less. (""Burpee builds crooked. It's his style."") Meanwhile, however, Daniel (a mystical back-to-Nature type) and Sara (the skeptic) have been making friends among the local population and taking in the coarsely engaging local mores. There's dear, rough old Phoebe--""a woman living the most Zen, the most simple, pure life imaginable, and quietly going crazy."" Plus: ancient lecher Hilton; hunter Pike, who takes up painting (landscapes ""where little stick figures writhed in torments suitable to the specific scene""); outrageously thieving Gypsies, malodorous pig farmers, French salesmen, cheerful anti-Semitism, weird moose-hunts, the ""K mart experience,"" burgling bears, a wayward log drive (with ""drunks, relics, and fuck-ups""), and much, much more. Throughout, in fact, this leisurely potpourri of comic, satiric sketches entirely overshadows Daniel and Sara themselves--except for one brief sequence about halfway through: Sara's baby is stillborn, and there's a grim, numbed scene of tenderness-and-horror involving the tiny corpse. Unfortunately, however, since Daniel and Sara are such one-dimensional characters (Daniel's nearly invisible), this tragic chapter seems out-of-place. Similarly, while the local-yokel material chortles along nonstop, occasional references to Daniel's criminal behavior and Sara's terminal culture-shock (""I'm rapidly deteriorating into a soggy, heavy, indigestible country donut"") carry little weight. Unsuccessful as a portrait-of-a-marriage, then, undisciplined and overlong as a breezy Back-to-the-Land comedy--but Gundy (Cat on a Leash) offers enough solid laughs and on-target observations to make this a rich entertainment for patient readers.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Dial/Doubleday