THE LIFE OF HELEN ALONE by Karen Lawrence

THE LIFE OF HELEN ALONE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Helen, a city-bred woman, a psychotherapist, has fallen in love and come to live with a Western farmer, Daniel, and his children. Daniel's wife left him--and so Helen's task of winning a modicum of trust from the kids, and of soothing Daniel's hurt, and not lastly of learning how to live in a vastly harsh new environment is great indeed. To complicate matters, Helen's brother Eddie shows up for a visit--and Eddie is a labile, moody man, capricious and in as much deep need as Daniel: he'll act as a kind of peripheral image of all the problems Helen has with men. How Helen manages a year of what seems an impossible and certainly very lonely life/job is the cornerstone of Lawrence's first novel. The narrative pulse isn't strong, yet there are some vivid scenes: a social gathering with Daniel's prejudiced, very insular relatives; and a discomforting day when Daniel's ex-wife returns for a visit (which she then caps off by sleeping with Helen's brother). It's Helen's psychotherapist sensibility, however, that ultimately drains the book of life--gives it a kind of drippy piety. Helen understands--in the itchiest way--what everyone else is feeling (""Eddie was a man, like all the other men. . .A man with a boxed heart making himself hard, yearning to be soft"")--and so she seems to move through the book more like a disembodied (if hurting) force of condescension than as a believable character.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1986
Publisher: Villard/Random House