ROB'S PLACE by John Rowe Townsend


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From a well-regarded and prolific British author and critic, a novel dealing with the trauma of divorce. When Rob's best friend moves away, it is just one more event conspiring to make him feel deserted: Mum and her new husband (Keith) have a new baby, whose crying keeps Mum exhausted and on edge; Dad (wimpish and ineffectual in contrast to the dynamic Keith) keeps skipping his weekly visits. Rob escapes into a fantasy: he peoples a local island with characters who act out the fulfillment of his real-world needs. But as Rob grows more depressed and withdrawn, even his fantasies fail him: the Dad-character deserts, and the puma who has been his ally attacks him. Yet the fantasy world has so mesmerized him that at times it holds him against his will. Townsend's portrait of a family in trouble in spite of the best efforts of all its members is subtly drawn. Rob's response to his situation is not unjustified; it is because he shares his gentle father's passivity that his troubles drive him into a pathological state of paralysis. On the other hand, his salvation, with the help of new friend Katie, makes metaphorical sense but is implausibly abrupt, and his relentless non-cooperation and anger grow a little tedious. Still, a perceptive story that deals imaginatively with a common problem of adjustment.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1988
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard