ERRANDS by Judith Guest


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 The highly praised author of Ordinary People (1976) and Second Heaven (1982) expertly molds another melancholy story of midwestern, middle-class family love and loss. As in Guest's earlier works, the setting is Detroit and Upper Michigan. As the story begins, the Browners--Keith, an English teacher, Annie, his wife, and their children Harry, 13, Jimmy, 12, and Julie, 9--are on vacation in Au Gres on Lake Huron, awaiting the first of Keith's scheduled chemo treatments for a brain tumor that's just been diagnosed. But before treatments can begin, Keith, 38, dies, and the Browner family descends into grief and confusion. Back in Detroit, Annie searches for something more than a minimum- wage job (she had dropped out of college to marry), while the three kids, reacting to their mother's increasing rage and frustration, as well as to their own loss, grow fractious and sullen, then start skipping school and stealing. Annie's sweet younger sister Jess tries to help, but she's got her own troubles: Jess's married lover, Ryan, who keeps promising to divorce his alcoholic wife, instead goes back to her after she cripples their nine-year-old daughter in a car accident. Other griefs pile up: The stray cat the family adopted is killed by a car; Jimmy's brand-new bike, for which he'd saved up for two years, is stolen. Annie, frayed and feeling abandoned, flees the melee, going back to Au Gres to reflect on Keith's death; but she returns when Jimmy is nearly blinded in a fishing accident. In the midst of this particular extremity, Guest subtly and persuasively paints the beginning of family healing as each member is called on to perform an errand of love for the others. A fine performance--the children are complex and delightful, the emotion direct and compelling--though the story is a sad and gloomy one. (Literary Guild main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-345-40904-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1996


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