BORDERLINE by Janette Turner Hospital


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Strangers to each other, crossing into Canada from the US in their respective cars, a man and a woman both witness something terrible. A refrigerated truck that's filled with illegal aliens, political refugees from Central America, is discovered, the refugees secreted among carcasses. The aliens are taken away by the border police, but one woman, half-dead and unconscious from the cold, remains inside the truck. The witnesses--Gus, a philandering Montreal insurance man, and Felicity, the elegant owner of a Boston art gallery--instinctively rescue the woman and take her to a cabin that belongs to Felicity. The woman presently disappears without a trace--left? taken? killed?--but to both Gus and Felicity she leaves a legacy. To Gus she becomes a vision of the Virgin, chastising his messy moral ways and ultimately driving him mad. For Felicity (and her carefully combed, aesthetic life), the woman serves as an introduction into the wider world of fear and persecution. Hospital, author of the very good The Ivory Swing (1983) and the very much less good The Tiger In The Tiger Pit (1984), has bad formal problems here: a short-story-length central action which, however, is baroquely embroidered and spun out by more narrators than it requires (including the piano-tuner son of one of Felicity's old lovers: he mainly pontificates) and is repeatedly snagged by wooden imagery like this: ""On the leeward sides of telegraph poles, tom fragments of inflammatory pamphlets whispered among themselves, little covens of conspirators."" A windy, straining book too full of its own shadows and too poor of its own essential clarity.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1985
Publisher: Dutton