WHAT I HAVE TO TELL YOU by Mary Elsie Robertson


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Robertson's hot-tempered female protagonists--whether in the chilly danger of The Clearing (1982) or the verbal bloodletting of Family Life (1987)--tend to take precipitous actions. In this sour little tale of revenge--eventually de-clawed--the whiny, inwardly tantrum-ing grievance-collector often seethes with rage, and her unlikely crisis-companion is a scatty hippie psychic, just about as irritating. In Washington State, Virginian Jessie, a classics major, physically ugly (by her own estimate), is searching for husband Dwayne, who's possibly dead. Desperate Jessie tracks down Phoebe, whose psychic services were advertized on a battered card in a laundromat. At first, childlike Phoebe, with a baby sired by a drifting motorcyclist, never really tips her hand about Dwayne; instead she absorbs, with her extraordinary ""gift,"" Jessie's past in the family estate of Clearwater. In her transports--when she tosses up real voices and events from Jessie's childhood--Phoebe insists that she's Jessie's sister. Jessie eventually will live with Phoebe, admit the ""sister"" illusion, while she broods about her recent past: Jessie's hatred of once-loved twin, lawyer Jason; Mother who loved him better; and her marriage to ""poor trash"" Dwayne as a ""simple and yet so cunning revenge."" As for simple, sweet Dwayne, Jessie had to tell him she knew all along he'd planned to get half of Clearwater, and Dwayne just went away--or did he really drive off that bridge? At the close, Jessie learns something about betrayal and the possibility of love. Robertson's odd duo--growling Jessie and elusive Phoebe--fall tantalizingly short of complete realization, and the delicate mystery of Phoebe's ""gift"" shrivels to nonsense in the light of Jessie's broad, blinkered rage. An intriguing concept but not really brought off.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday