ANGELS AND ALIENS: A California Journey by Mary Morris

ANGELS AND ALIENS: A California Journey

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A West Coast rejoinder to Nora Ephron's Heartburn, with a touch of Cyra McFadden's Serial thrown in for good measure. The publisher has slotted this latest offering by Morris (The Lifeguard, 1997; House Arrest, 1996; etc.) as a travel book, whence the subtitle. The real journey, however, is an interior one, for Morris's book is a study of the author's own loneliness, a cathartic remembering of life with difficult men--chiefly her father and the much older man with whom she brought her daughter into the world. California--especially, Southern California--figures in her pages largely through clichÆ’s, all freeways and illegal aliens and waiting for the big one. She does the weirdness and loneliness of the place little justice. About her personal troubles and her attempts to deal with them she writes with a somewhat muted but utterly self-aware dignity; it's clear that her time in California was not easy. The story takes a truly interesting turn when Morris briefly enters a New Age cult and gets a creepy taste of psychic channeling; she reflects on her own spiritual quest as an Orthodox Jew ""for a millisecond,"" as a Buddhist for somewhat longer, and vividly suggests the longing for meaning that brings so many into religious and quasi-religious practice. Morris's insistence on calling her abbreviated sojourn in California an ""exile"" is wearing--after all, she was teaching writing at a college, and being well paid for her endeavors. But the ordeal of her separation from her child's father, who chose to remain in New York and pursue his career without her, is evident on every page, down to what we know all along will have to be an unhappy ending. A minor addition to the recent flurry of memoirs, but occasionally affecting all the same.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Picador/St. Martin's