BRIEF CANDLE by Martin Boris


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A well-crafted second book from Boris (Woodridge, 1946, 1980)--flawed only by occasional romance-novel prose and a predictable plot. Laura and Mark Gerber are one of those innumerable upwardly mobile suburban couples: affluent (he has a drugstore) and unbroken by the mindless routines of life. They also have three daughters--one of whom, Bobbi, is killed by a drunken driver while making deliveries for her father. Until then, Mark has found Laura ""a very sensuous woman beneath her cool and reserved exterior."" Now, faced with the funeral and the shiva, he decides that for most of their friends ""it was just a goddamn fashion show."" The couple leaves the land of running suits and Adidas sneakers for an ill-fitting bitterness: they become involved in ""compulsive routines""; attend Compassionate Friends, a support group; and Mark, especially, keeps track of the progress of the drunken driver as the case makes it way through the court system. Finally, they both have affairs: Mark moves in with Virginia, a strapping Irish woman so sexual that ""my entire being lay between my legs""; and Laura with Bruno, a sculptor with whom she explores ""each other's forbidden zones."" But all of this eventually gets worked out: Mark develops compassion after visiting Virginia's retarded son, going to the Motor Vehicle Department to see the system at work, and learning from an acquaintance that ""you alternate between love and hate with a wife."" He collapses and returns home, where Laura admits to Bruno that ""I'm afraid I love him after all."" Mark recovers and tells her ""We have lots of days. . .centuries, if we do it right."" Despite the sap--and the familiar territory--Boris nonetheless does an effective job of exploring the way grief enters the lives of people who never expected it to come.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Crown