THE INVISIBLE WORM by Jennifer Johnston


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 In luminous prose, with dialogue as exact as Henry Green's, acclaimed Irish author Johnston (Fool's Sanctuary, 1988, etc.) strips away the perfect outer layers to reveal ``the invisible worm'' that destroyed an apparently golden family that's rotten at the center. When Laura Quinlan's famous father dies, his funeral is attended by the Irish President, and the distinguished congregation seems to Laura to ``dance in celebration of her father's life.'' But Laura, always stirred by ``the tremors of memory,'' recalls her long-dead mother, ``who didn't succumb to his enormous charm. [Or]...perhaps she had indeed succumbed, and thereafter had to protect herself from it.'' Increasingly reclusive now after her father's death, Laura has also suffered periodic breakdowns in the past. In the present, over the period of a year, Laura lives in her beautiful inherited estate with her husband Maurice, a splendidly realized character--part bluff businessman, part perceptive admirer; and, during this time, Laura finally comes to understand what had really happened to her family over 20 years ago. Childless and 37, she spends her days gardening, which leads to her decision to clear away the growth about an old summerhouse. As she proceeds to do this, interrupted by another breakdown, she's helped by admiring Dominic O'Hara, a former priest teaching at a local school. After a cathartic bonfire, she tells him about the fact that she'd fled to France for two years after her father raped her as a teenager--an act responsible for her mother's death (a suicide, not an accident); for her marriage of escape to Maurice; and for ``the emptiness of living'' that had followed. She had forgiven her dying father, but only now can she tell the story ``right to the end.'' From a writer with great gifts: a story told with riveting intensity and a wise sympathy for the quirky workings of the human heart.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-88184-950-2
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993