THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER by Eudora Welty
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THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Those who didn't enjoy the topsyturvy eccentricity of Losing Battles will be happy to find Miss Welty back in the changeless countryside of her earlier short novels where memory is the eternal revenant keeping alive places and people often in the mortmain of the past. Thus Laurel returns home, after the death of her mother, after her father has remarried the common Wanda Fay, as he lies in a hospital bed following some eye surgery. But somehow he just "sneaks out on them" or was he hurried along by Fay, just as she shifts his mortal remains from the camellia gravesite in the old cemetery to newer ground with plastic poinsettias? Alone for a few days in the large house of her childhood in Mount Salus, Mississippi, Laurel is submerged in memories of her own shortlived marriage as well as that of her parents, always serene until her mother's long illness with its prophetic fear of betrayal; such a betrayal as Wanda Fay whose encroachment was, after all, only physical -- leaving behind a crumpled unmade bed or the drops of red nail polish on the mahogany desk. But then Laurel will learn "What burdens we lay on the dying. . . seeking to prove some little thing that we can keep to comfort us when they can no longer feel -- something as incapable of being kept as of being proved: the lastingness of memory, vigilance against harm, self-reliance, good hope, trust in one another." Still at the end these abide. So too will Miss Welty's novel, perfectly poised between art and the experience she replicates and reconciles at the same time.
Pub Date: May 18th, 1972
ISBN: 0060955872
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1972




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