LOVE LIFE by James D. Houston


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For his sixth novel, Houston (Continental Drift, The Adventures of Charlie Bates, etc.) has chosen to tell a tale of marital infidelities from a female singer's point of view. The plot is simplicity itself, complicated by a bucket of memories and a deluge (literally) of coincidences. On her 32nd birthday, Holly Doyle accidentally finds out that husband Grover is having an affair with big breasted, black-haired, 20-year-old Sarah. Following friend Maureen's advice, she immediately credit-cards herself a flight to The Big Apple to look up ex-lover Howard. She crashes at ex-roomie Barbara's suavely styled digs, makes a lunch date with Howard but decides he's gotten over her too far to be worth seeing, and, after Barbara has gone to work, has sex with Ray, the exterminator. Ray vans her to LaGuardia, where she hops the next flight back to San Francisco. Back at the little house in the hills--Storm and Flood. While Grover worries about mudslides, and his mother, Leona, worries about them all, Holly puts 3-year-old Karen and 8-year-old Buddy to bed. Grover and Holly argue; Buddy flees the house; Leona gets drunk; but the storm passes, the sun comes out--indeed, after a belligerent confrontation with Sarah in a supermarket after the rain, Holly decides to stay. Designed to appeal to the middle in middle-aged, middle-class readers who hunger for some escape, the book is laced together with details of the paraphernalia of middle-class life but riddled with psychic evasions: for example, characters' reactions aren't dramatized or projected but dully stated--""What Lee said about baptism, that affected me deeply""--and Holly recalls such moments of the past as reinforce her self-image as heroine-singer or feed her moral indignation. The prose is as conventional and clean as a pink sweater, and the motivational pattern is a wholly owned subsidiary of Name Brand Clich‚s: ""Nobody falls harder than a Puritan when he falls""; ""Is there a line between love and surrendering?"" All in all, a soap opera without live actors.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1985
Publisher: Knopf