THE ROAD TO ZENA by Joel Redon


Email this review


A turgid coming-of-age saga--the second in a projected series of four novels (following If Not on Earth, Then in Heaven, 1991)--set in rural Oregon at the turn of the century and drawn from Redon's exhaustive search into his own family's presence in that place and time. Shy hunk Vivian Cochran lives with his grandfather and doting spinster aunt in picturesque Zena, uncertain about his future as the old way of life appears to be giving way to progress. He opts to finish school so that he can go on to college like his friends, a choice made easier by the fact that Mae Matthews, the pretty young schoolteacher also living with her grandparents, is his age and attracted to him. By fits and starts a romance progresses, nearly stifled by mutual naivetÉ and miscommunication, until Mae leaves Zena to teach elsewhere and Vivian takes up football and his agricultural studies at a state college. Both miserable, the two decide it's better to live together than apart, and return to Zena to marry. Meanwhile, Vivian's grandfather, after grieving for his dead wife by loudly and imperiously reliving his Civil War and pioneer past, embraces the new age by marrying an admiring widow, and Mac's grandparents also come to terms with Zena's inevitable demise by moving to the city. In an extensive afterword, Redon charts his progress as he tracked down information about his family tree--but even though the original material has been dramatically enhanced, as an imaginative work its charms are fleeting. Colorful family history turned into a sensitive but overly precious love story--evocative in its sense of the period but tediously obsessive in detailing quirks of character.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's