AGE OF CONSENT by Jeanne Greenberg


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From the lighthearted amusements of Simple Gifts (1986), Greenberg returns to a solemn, potentially promising theme--a sister's search for the tree nature of a murdered-hero brother's life--but the characters are explained rather than realized and the pace is creepingly slow. Vivian, sister of Dr. Daniel Sanborn, an internationally famous facial surgeon murdered, ostensibly, by a Spanish terrorist group, is crushed by her brother's death and searches for answers to the puzzle that was austere, isolated Dan Sanborn's life, in which she played so small a part. Dan had arrived from Jerusalem as an orphaned exile and was adopted by the wealthy Sanborn family; and to all but Vivian, he was unapproachable, unlovable. Was he the same to the medical assistants who travelled with him through the boundaries of warring, poor countries--Cambodia, Bangladesh, Iran, Vietnam, Ecuador, Chile, etc.? Vivian begins a ""pilgrimage"" to find those who served with Dan; midway through, she is accompanied by a new friend, plain, pudgy Cecilia, loving nurse-leader of severely handicapped children. Dan's chaste portrait in memory clouds: why did one assistant commit suicide, another become an alcoholic, another desert with stolen money? And worst of all, why did Dan leave a substantial amount of money to vulgar nightclub comedian Jack Ripstein (a.k.a. Jack the Ripper)? Vivian battles with some chilling suspicions, while Cecilia relives painful and then wonderful memories. At the close, it's a doomed Jack and an old man's tale that suddenly illuminate Dan Sanborn--and his death. The interview-by-wearying, interview unveiling of the central (if absent) character does not generate much fictional heat--and it's all much too talky, and banal talky at that.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Henry Holt