JESSICA FAYER by John L'Heureux


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As before, L'Heureux is concerned with lives iron-bound by a commitment received in innocence and never fully understood. The concept of perfect love is the legacy of twelve-year-old Jessica O'Connell, a convent-raised orphan, via serene Sister Veronica who has ""kept her for herself and for God."" And then Jessica becomes ""Sister Judith""--Sister Judith, who has her own acolyte, a child of a dead friend, to whom she presents the doll's white parasol given to her by Sister Veronica years before. But Sister Judith, inexplicably, becomes Mrs. Eugene Fayer, wife of a bullying seminary dropout who demanded the challenge of ultimate virginity. And how to explain the Jessica Fayer who experiences a happy sexual reciprocity with a black handyman? Or widowed sixtyish Jessica, a ""dull, contented"" owner of a nursing home who has an agreeable lover with an insane wife? (He leaves her at sixty-six, remembering not their pleasure and companionship, only the guilt.) Most tantalizing is her relationship at seventy with a middle-aged homosexual--a liberating love for both. All these Jessicas swim in the hallucinating mind of the dying old woman as she wanders around Boston and is mugged. Her energies are finally focused on the pursuit of two women--one long dead and one stranger on a bus--who are fighting over her white parasol. At the close Jessica marches off with her pristine possession, with which she will undoubtedly sweep Heaven. An inventive exploration of love and identity even if L'Heureux favors metaphysical speculation over character--which was not the case, for example, with the marvelous Tight White Collar (1972)--But he has yet to write a novel without impact or afterglow.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1976
Publisher: Macmillan