MANNY & ROSE by Joan K. Peters


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After Rose Hermann dies following a terminal illness, cast adrift are her husband, 74-year-old accountant Manny, and her social-worker daughter Ellen. But the family bonds, however close, were never harmonious. Rose was contentious, moody, quick-tempered, and despairing; Manny was and is resentful (and half-relieved at her going); and Elien--who's never quite found peace in her own husband and child, and who's turned to study with a guru--is the last triangulation point in a constellation of incessant mutual disappointment and familial chafe. Peters, in her first novel, does a number of thorny things quite well. The scenes of acrimonious shiva-sitting in Manny's Queens apartment after Rose's death are splendid, rich with emotional posturing and the settling of old scores. Manny's new widowerhood (destined not to last long: he'll die soon after Rose, lost utterly into memories less than fully nourishing) is credibly seedy, specific, and sad. A general mood of strain impresses, of blood lessons that might yet be learnt. . .and aren't. So heralded here is a feeling-filled (and brave-feeling) fiction writer. As a novel, Peters' debut is less than perfect, though: it's got something too stretchy about it, too pulled: the sections about Ellen's abdication to the upstate N.Y. ashram, leaving her father and her husband and her daughter at a most painful moment of aftermath, don't feel of a piece with the rest of the story, and contribute little tension or drive. Two-thirds, then, of a promising and vivid novel--one third filler.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's