REAL LIFE by Kitty Burns Florey


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Losers don't like other losers. . . Losers have their pride."" In her fourth insidiously appealing novel, Florey again propels her principal characters--endemically gawky-souled, endearing, kicking against the traces--to muddle through the silty murk of a past of family miseries and personal failure, while somehow the good life pans out. Here a brace of sad sacks--a grimly solitary potter and her nerd of a young teen nephew-find their separate loves and then, a family of two. Dorrie Gilbert, 38, holed up in the agreeable chaos of a modest farmhouse-with-pond in northeast Connecticut, pursues a successful career in pottery, while drowning out (or trying to) memories of her failures in love and life. Enter Hugo, fat, 14 and superwimp, offspring of Dorrie's late brother Phineas, a junkie who died in jail, and his girlfriend Iris, killed by a drug dealer when Hugo was a tot. (Hugo had been told both parents died in an auto accident.) Hugo, a veteran of loss, had been taken from Iris' sister Rose--a good-hearted sloven who lived in a trailer with four illegitimate kids--by Dorrie's parents, who then managed to die one after the other. ""Death,"" muses Hugo, ""is missing people."" Now Hugo is all Dorrie's--an appalling prospect for both. ""How can you not have a TV?"" cries Hugo in shock--and on the first day of residence, he's rowing desperately across the pond to kindly neighbors to catch the soap opera he's addicted to (his daily fix of ""friendly involving feeling""). The bleak mutual regard of aunt and nephew, with occasional jumpy attempts to please one another, is not helped by severe self-estimates. Dorrie thinks she's ""old and ugly""; Hugo knows he's ""an eternal jerk."" But loves will arrive heaven-sent. For Dorrie, there's failed writer Alec with his gunslinger mustache; for Hugo, there's skinny teenager Nina, of plastic parents and the certainty she's headed for rock stardom. Learning the more-or-less truth about his parents, the eager-to-please wimp becomes an angry adolescent, while Dorrie, in spite of herself, draws closer. After some boozy desperado doings, a flare-up between lovers, and a sacrifical rewriting of family history, the barriers are down and old scores are settled. Simpler in outline than Florey's others--but no less affecting. In spite of an overly pat conclusion, it's a sunny, vital novel and Hugo is irresistible.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow