THE CLEARING by Mary Elsie Robertson


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In spite of Robertson's quietly intimate style, so attractively involving in her After Freud (1981), this tale of dread and deadly sexual games is a modestly effective suspense-chiller. Annie, mother of five-year-old Arie, is running away from musician-husband Saul, escaping to a deserted family cabin, deep in the snowy reaches of a formidable New England lakeside winter. Frightened, but then with increasing confidence, Annie sets up housekeeping in the isolated cabin, totally free at last to love her son without fear, the ""fear of hearing Saul's key in the lock."" Why fear? Because the relationship with Saul has become increasingly sado-masochistic, full of risk and danger as well as excitement, with Saul's jealous rages directed at Arie. But now, even though Arie is totally hers, he sometimes pulls away, singing a strange song at the window: ""Jump, Jump/ Wolf will get the boy."" And beyond the black windows. . . was there someone circling in the snow? What about that snowshoe print beside the woodpile? The answer: a stranger named Jake, stocky, red-haired, grimy--an in-and-out-of-jail drifter who moves in, housekeeps while Annie rests a wounded foot, chops wood, is ""good"" with Arie. . . and rapes Annie night after night. Thus, Saul comes alive for Annie again in brutal Jake, who enjoys her helplessness--not knowing how dangerous Annie might be. Her preparations for his murder are terror-edged but methodical; Jake will die amazed; and Annie will pay for her crime with a descent into a hell of black water and beckoning ice. A scouring tale of sexual violence and revenge--with a forbidding, deep-freeze ambience that might persuade you to stay out of the woods. . . at least until the ice melts.

Pub Date: June 28th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum