THE THRESHOLD by Marlys Millhiser


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Millhiser, a murky but agreeable chronicler of mildly spooky doings (The Mirror, Nightmare Country), sets her latest time-travel puzzle in a bygone Colorado mining-town and in today's touristy Telluride--where people and events of 1901 and the 1980s show up in each other's time-frames. . . until time skids to a stop. Aletha Kingman, recovering from three months in the clink on a false drug charge, is sketching an old miner's cabin--when she sees the child Callie O'Connell, a voyager from 1901! Soon, then, along with shady Cree Mackelwain (who's searching for a hidden stash of dope), Aletha will be lurching into the past--while the 1901 crowd drops into the present. And gradually Aletha becomes more and more involved with young Callie, her miner-father John, her scrawny mother Louise, and her adopted teenage brother Bram: a glimpse of Callie with a Telluride prostitute convinces Aletha that she must change history. (""Maybe I can keep Callie from that one awful moment that could change her life forever."") Among the disturbing visions through time: Brain's humiliation of the ever-so-genteel teacher Mildred Heisinger (still alive in the present), who'll become Telluride's procuress for its brothel strip; a cave-in in which Brain nearly dies; hard times, strikes, violence; the appearance of Cailie's Aunt Lily, respectably married, in Telluride's matinee parade of prostitutes. So Aletha and Cree shout warnings about things to come. (Miners hear about the future cave-in from an ""angel in pants."") But they're hunted in both time-frames by crooks and sheriffs--while objects bounce back and forth: Callie's underfed cat Charles settles into modern cat-food miracles; Aletha's sandals show up in a museum, suitably aged. Too giddily convoluted for non-aficionados of time travel, perhaps--but, with a certain humor and Millhiser's easygoing prose, it's inventive, likable entertainment for those with a taste for whimsical complexity.

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 1984
Publisher: Putnam