Upon moving from the East Coast to rural Colorado, a divorcé parses the complexities of love in Meyerle’s (Bread of Shame, 2010) ruminative novel.
“There are many things which only the heart can grasp,” Jeff Stillman acknowledges as he reaches his twilight years. Indeed, his heart has long been a source of mystification for him. His love for his wife, Kathryn—the mother of his five children—is far from simple or wholly devoted, and it shares space in his heart with his love for Julia, a compassionate beauty and the wife of his best friend, Dean. When Jeff’s marriage finally fails—due, in part, to his extreme focus on his Manhattan law career—he starts fresh in quiet, sparse Kiowa, Colo. The home he purchases there, sight unseen, had once belonged to Julia and Dean, who founded an educational ranch nearby for disabled children. Jeff had always admired their altruism, but he’d always “blithely pursued the good life,” responding defensively to the notion that he might also practice such generosity: “Did that mean he and others should be rebuked for not being like them? No, he thinks.” His experiences in Kiowa, where he must rely on his neighbors to survive, force a profound change of outlook. The book’s central love triangle, and its idealization of rural living as a means to enlightenment, may appear prosaic, and some of Jeff’s observations (such as “It is time to be true to himself”) and predilections (including his tendency to get teary-eyed) verge on the trite. But the novel, despite its skirting of clichés, is also deeply insightful about love, human interaction, solitude, and even the ways in which America’s current economic and political landscapes affect people’s interdependency. Much of its success comes from the characters’ unpredictability and its intricate structure; the chapters alternate between modern-day Kiowa and slide backward from 2008 to 1969, depicting in reverse the gradual cracks in a marriage and a life’s mistakes.
An often resonant novel about choice, regret and absolution.