THE TOUCH by Julie Myerson


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 Myerson follows up her acclaimed debut (Sleepwalking, 1995) with a similarly detailed study of family distress and dysfunction- -but this time there's a wild card: An unbalanced evangelist who inserts himself into the family's unstable dynamic, with catastrophic consequences. Frank Chapman is a bloody, sorry mess when Donna, her lover Will, and her sister Gayle find him semiconscious in a London park. The three get him to the hospital where Gayle works; and as the old widower recovers, she is both attracted to him and repelled; Inexplicably, he knows all about lovely Donna's twisted spine, which makes every day a painful trial for her, and he's certain that he can cure her. In time, Gayle is persuaded to let him try, and when Will is brought around too, Donna agrees to give it a shot. The faith healing works, and overnight Donna finds a new lust for life; she can't bring herself, however, to feel grateful to the unwashed, bizarre old man who made it possible. Gayle and Will visit Frank regularly to show their gratitude, even though they also find him difficult; as time passes, the two begin to take pleasure in each other's company, while Will and Donna become ever more estranged. During a family seaside vacation, complete with the sisters' mum, their brother Simon (a shiftless sponger with an unnatural affection for Gayle), and Frank, Gayle and Will's repressed passions emerge; they start an affair that continues back in London, even after Donna becomes pregnant. Frank, cut loose and left to fend for himself, festers in his own dark passions and memories, until a chance encounter with Will turns him from a healer for Jesus into an Old Testament avenger. Honest characterization and a flair for exposing family failings work as well here as before--and even if the portrayal of the outsider ultimately becomes heavy-handed, Myerson is clearly adept at chronicling the wrenching doubts at work in even the most intimate relations.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-47507-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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