THE MUSEUM OF HAPPINESS by Jesse Lee Kercheval


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 Love (with some help from magic and coincidence) conquers all for a rich young American widow and a stateless vagrant in Paris in 1929: a charming first novel--literary in style (portions first appeared in journals like Boulevard and Indiana Review) and feel- good in impact. Kercheval's story collection, The Dogeater (not reviewed), won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction in 1987. ``Everyone has their own museum of happiness''--inside the head--``where no one can touch it.'' Or so Ginny Gillespie learns before the triumphant end of her adventures. Back home in Florida, Ginny was dying of pneumonia when her doctor married her in order to authorize treatment that her mother--a Jehovah's Witness- -refused. Soon after her recovery, he died, leaving Ginny enough money to flee to Paris. (Her only sane relative, confined to a mental hospital, warns her: ``When you get discouraged and you want to come home...don't.'') Meanwhile, Roland, born in the disputed territory of Alsace, inherited the webbed fingers and psychic abilities of his father's family; after WW I, his German mother tried to give him her nationality, but not her love. In Paris, Ginny and Roland promptly connect in a pairing so odd that it must be fate. Within days, he is deported to a German detention camp. Ginny--pregnant--desperately tries to find him, while Roland--by natural and/or supernatural means--will be by her side when their baby is born. More serious elements (war, death, irrational nationalism) hardly provide ballast for much whimsy and sweet uplift: a pleasure to read that falls short of lasting resonance.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-571-19821-X
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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