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JEFFREY COUNTY by Kathleen Ford



Pub Date: July 28th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's

The title of this modest first novel is somewhat misleading since Ford's plain and often uncertain style relies more on character than place for its overall effect. In the shadow of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, four fairly ordinary lives unfold and intersect in surprising but believable ways. At first, Brian McGuire, the new social-studies teacher at the Jeffrey mid-school, and Amy Barnett, the young widowed mother of one of his students, seem fated to be paired. But events combine with a few strong personalities to alter what seems inevitable. After a disastrous trip to visit Brian's Irish-Catholic family in Boston--a culture and place alien to Amy in every way--they split up. Waiting in the wings for the quiet and somber teacher is his colleague Blanche Hunter, a spinsterhood-bound woman who's not very attractive but compensates with sheer will power: she's been determined to ensnare Brian from the first day he arrived in Jeffrey. It certainly doesn't hurt that a sexually adventurous ""white trash"" school-bus driver has instructed the overweight English teacher in the ways of love-making. Equally determined, and successful in love, is Curtis Perkins, Amy's adolescent sweetheart who's returned to Jeffrey after the failure of his Florida construction company. As handsome and burly as Amy's husband was, he proves the perfect male presence for her troubled boys. The much-too-neat resolution finds Brian and Blanche at the altar, and Amy and Curtis in a ""wacky wedding mood."" Plentiful sex scenes are bland in detail, or worse (""He was eating corn from the Cob and she was the cob""), and Ford's sympathetic female characters read, and measure their behavior by, the kinds of women's magazines where this unsubtle fiction would be most welcome. Slim in all respects, this fictional debut is nevertheless a welcome antidote to the ""hick chic"" of so many recent writers. Ford's simple folk aren't a bunch of rural metaphysicians stuck in a land of K-Marts and Qwik-Stops.