DUET FOR THREE by Joan Barfoot
Kirkus Star


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Some ruthlessly unblinking recognitions--about the devastation of aging, and the capricious fragility of blood ties through years of small, unnoticed disconnections--in this moving novel by the Canadian author of A bra (1978) and Dancing in the Dark (1983). Obese, gruff, 80-year-old Aggie, who in daughter June's view was ""not a person with a tender heart"" had been released long ago from a miserable marriage by her prim schoolteacher husband's early death. And instead of a houseful of boisterous children like in her own farm home, there was only thin, picky June. June, now 59, longs for freedom--from Aggie, from the hated school-teaching, from all those demands from ""others."" But freedom for what? June is haunted still by the humiliation of divorce from a good-natured, weak husband--trapped like herself in a mistaken vision of the other--she's left comfortless by a punishing religiosity, and she's angry that daughter Frances, a career journalist, always ""away,"" is no help. Even Aggie, who has loved Frances with a fierce love, begins to realize that the granddaughter she raised to be independent ""turns her back too readily."" Now the invincible Aggie, who supported daughter and, briefly, granddaughter, with her bakery, who devoured books and food in a hunger for stature, has become incontinent, increasingly dependent. June cherishes the thought of a nursing home--and a house shorn of Aggie's contempt. But their bristling duet of anger and hurt will inexplicably resolve to some somber, even gentle revelations, as they await the arrival of Frances, and the two women--who never got what they wanted in life--face a frightening future. An immensely touching and acute tale of the sad and terrible delicacy of family ties and the wounding price of isolation.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Beaufort