DYING YOUNG by Marti Leimbach
Kirkus Star

DYING YOUNG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This young author's first novel--celebrated pre-pub with a mega-advance and a film sale--offers the old-timey, sure-fire fascination of a fevered love story in which one partner is dying, and dying with flair. But Leimbach writes with a shrewd, dry-eyed, perceptively acquisitive energy, bypassing all avenues to the maudlin. Here, a young woman, hobbled by her own ""desperate inner call,"" obsessively cares for and loves a dying man, while hovering about is another lover--a lover whose normalcy she yearns for like sunlight. Hilary lives with Victor in a decaying Victorian house in a wintry Massachusetts seaside town. In the fifth year of his Harvard graduate study in philosophy, Old Bostonian Victor (""with a rich man's voice and stance""--Victor is decidedly hidalgo) had decided to stop chemotherapy for his terminal leukemia and to cut all ties with family and friends. Now, the two of them live, Hilary decides, ""in a sort of emotional confusion, never quite sure of what things really are."" Hilary, before Victor, was adrift in a world of ""ought-to,"" searching for an anchoring reality but somehow never reaching it. Yet now in making love, she finds a reality in Victor--a sweet, true self beyond his violences and hectic wit. Then there is also Gordon--who does gentleman carpentry rather than read Nietzsche, and who is ""normal"" and a friend, as well as a lover. In the impossible triangle (Gordon and Victor become friends), Hilary is one of ""three ghosts. . .all the time living quite against the grain of the world made fantastic by our lies."" And ""fantastic"" is the word: Victor and Hilary's attic rooms ring with gunfire, blows, and cries; an elderly blue-blood with lime hair and a (highly symbolic) maze on her estate, orchestrates socially; there's a nighttime toboggan ride and a prowl; and a decision to die involves a loyalty never imagined. This is essentially Hilary's story as she struggles for stability. Her two lovers, elaborately imagined--as are the oilier characters--support her ascension lo maturity like gilded sinners/saints. Meanwhile, a lively philosophical base--sprouting suppositions concerning love and death--surrounds this ""lawless"" love story in which loving is ""to save nothing for tomorrow."" A promising talent and a bravura approach to a romantic tale of considerable popular appeal.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday