PIOUS SECRETS by Irene Dische


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 A clever, part comic, part profound first novel by American writer Dische, now living in Germany, where this tale, which is better at raising questions than answering them, first appeared. Moving between a family home in suburban New Jersey and a mortuary in N.Y.C. where Dr. Connie Bauer, a divorced mother of two, works, the story attempts to explore not only the effects of guilt and well-meaning deception but also confession. In the mortuary, the attractive Connie, working nonchalantly on her dissections, begins an affair with Dr. Hake, the resident intellectual who writes books ``about life and its meaning, couched in the medical prose he admired.'' Over in New Jersey, Connie's father Carl, a retired German ÇmigrÇ and architect, along with housekeeper Gerda, also German, takes care of Connie's two children, Sally and Dicker. Carl and Gerda are devout Catholics who disapproved of Connie's marriage to the brilliant Jewish scientist and future Nobel prize-winner Stanislav. They have turned the house into a shrine to Connie's late mother Eva and have filled it with religious artifacts. Meanwhile, son Decker, taught by overzealous nuns, is obsessed with sin and the need to confess. And daughter Sally has her own suspicions about the family's past. When she voices them to her mother's liver, the doctor turns sleuth. But though the National Inquirer proclaims ``HITLER FOUND,'' the guilty secrets revealed at the end, though pious, are quite the opposite. Teeming with ideas, vivid images, and memorable characters, but the satirical and comic effects finally overwhelm the serious intentions. A flawed novel of some promise.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-83492-0
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991


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