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HAZARD ZONES by Keith Maillard


by Keith Maillard

Pub Date: June 21st, 1996
ISBN: 0-00-224397-0
Publisher: HarperCollins

 The second (after Light in the Company of Women, 1994, not reviewed) in Canadian novelist Maillard's Raysburg trilogy, a series chronicling in sharp detail the clouded history and slow redemption of an unhappy child. Although the boy under consideration has been happily settled on the shores of middle age for some time before we meet him, it is obvious nevertheless that he is struggling with an unsettled past. Larry Cameron is a Boston publisher and failed geographer whose academic interest in hazard zones--that is, disaster areas-- provides some clues about his own past, which was played out largely in the flood region of Raysburg, West Virginia. After a long absence, Larry is now going home for his mother's funeral, and he brings his wife Cynthia along for the ride: ``Cynthia's heard plenty about the Ohio Valley, but she's never seen it, and this unexpected chance to show it to her makes me oddly happy. Now I can't remember why I've always been so reluctant to take her to Raysburg.'' Like Larry, Cynthia never managed to complete her doctoral dissertation, but hers was in literature rather than geography--and happened to center on an obscure 19th-century novelist who lived in the small Ohio town of Massilon, only a few miles from Raysburg. As Larry arranges the funeral and looks up old friends, we glimpse the shadows of his past--his alcoholic father, his doomed younger brother, his own youthful inability to find an object for his ambitions--that drove him from Raysburg in the first place. Although--as with most trilogies--the focus is loose here, with no obvious climax or destination, the slow but continuous revelation of Larry's own past is insistent and compelling enough to draw us in, and the pattern of that same history is intricate enough to beg questions that can't be answered in one book. Graceful and fluid: A marvelous excursion into the confines of a fully realized human soul.