THE FREQUENCY OF SOULS by Mary Kay Zuravleff


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 Polished first novel toying with the possibility that dead souls are all around us, ``broadcasting'' at weak radio frequencies. That, at least, is Zuravleff's premise, but actually her story is mostly about George Mahoney, an engineer working for a company called Coldpoint. George is a walking dead man. He has labored for 14 years on ``improvements'' for refrigerators--his triumph having been the first ice maker--but now he spends all of his time fending off his foulmouthed boss and trying to avoid the ``Veteran,'' his taciturn, burnt-out officemate. And there's trouble at home: a meticulously organized, fiercely middle-class wife who seems increasingly rigid and unimaginative, and a troubled young son who is either brilliant or disturbed. The Veteran is forced into retirement, and a homely engineer with a hearing aid, Niagara Spense, takes his place. Niagara could excel in academic life except that she'd be labeled a crackpot, since her research involves using old radios to listen in on the dead. George falls in love with her, but he merely bemuses her since she's fallen for the Veteran's son, a rock musician who also seeks to commune with the dead. Jealous George breaks into Niagara's home and, bent on sabotage, accidentally tunes in his dead mother. What she says is so startling that George's life flops over completely: He sheds the guilt his mother long ago imposed, realizes how foolish an affair with Niagara would be, and, after his son wins the science fair with an ingenious refrigeration project, comes up with the best idea he's had in years. Zuravleff backs off from her dead souls theme just when it becomes interesting. Nonetheless, her narrative offers a wry and original meditation on office politics, midlife crisis, and even mortality. Thumbs most of the way up.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-374-15851-7
Page count: 298pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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