THE SEA WITHIN by Louise Murphy


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Though more than a bit bony with contrivance, this knobby-kneed first novel--about a bored, beached, childless San Francisco housewife who finds liberation in her Kentucky roots--is bouncy and appealing. Camille Anderson, 39, is married to Henry, a workaholic who reads sex manuals aloud while Camille counts tiles on the bedroom ceiling. So, after nearly drowning in the Bay during an at-one-with-the-whales peak experience, Camille decides to return to her home hamlet of Tom's Creek, Ky., where she'll camp out on her very own inherited cemetery plot. But great-aunt Nell, who helped Camille to get through a rocky childhood (with an alcoholic widower-father), takes a dim view of the cemetery tent-raising. She would rather that Camille help take care of cousin Dinah, a pregnant teenager who's been disowned by her parents. (They set her down in a bus station with a suitcase, $300, and orders not to come back.) And Camille obliges--even if first impressions of Dinah (with her primal ""chicken's eye"" stare) are not encouraging. But that's only the beginning of Camille's meditative, languorous, disturbing season in cemetery residence: she later learns that Dinah was gang-raped; she has an affair with handsome Tom Church, local boy and ruthless land-developer; she broods on the past, both personal and regional--calling forth a parade of tortured ghosts, from Mrs. Andrew Jackson (presiding over Indian genocide) to Tom's mother (who used discreet prostitution to spare her children from poverty). Moreover, before Camille at last finds a home and a future, there'll be ugly revelations and (after the birth of Dinah's baby) major tragedy. Over-busy and over-gothic in its comedy/drama lurchings--but, though undeniably flawed, an energetic and attractive debut.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1985
Publisher: Putnam