THE FIRE DWELLERS by Margaret Laurence


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Miss Laurence's novel A Jest of God (1966) has been triumphantly elevated to the screen as Rachel, Rachel, and this one is all about Rachel's sister Stacy. Stacy is the married one on the West Coast--thirty-nine, mother of four, wife of Mac, salesman for a health pill outfit. This is Stacy's day-by-restless-day, peanut butter-and-dirty dishes life, lacerated by the housebound anxiety of one called upon to give without apparent limit. A driving sense of responsibility alternates with agonizing spells of loneliness and loss: ""(why do) generality and generlity and generosity. . . stop just short of me?"" When she attempts to explain to Mac, ""(I feel) as though everything is receding,"" the inevitable husband's remark about ""seeing a doctor"" snips off yet another line of communication. Aware of threats to her children--from the bomb to the insidious dangers of childhood--Stacy goes a bit off the deep end. She dances drunkenly in the basement by herself; cuts up hilariously at her husband's business meeting; almost sleeps with Mac's peculiar friend, Buckle; does sleep with a young writer. But real dangers clear the air--the attempted suicide of a neighbor who insisted on caring for Stacy's toddler in her absence; the near drowning of one of her boys. At the close some problems diminish and ""Temporarily,"" considers Stacy on the eve of forty, ""they are more or less O.K."" Miss Laurence's remarkable ability to parse out female fears and fantasies is weakened somewhat by a dim sense of masculine personality and a precarious tilt toward sudsy events, but this is still box office for the trapped middle-aged housewife searching for a back fence champion.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1969
ISBN: 0226469514
Publisher: Knopf