AFTER ROY by Mary Tannen


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A book that defies many of the usual conventions and expectations, Tannen's second novel (Second Sight, 1988) is filled with memorable characters who seem, however, to have wandered into an unlikely--and melodramatic--tale. Famous rock musician Roy--never shown, only referred to--has so affected three of the major characters that their lives since he broke with them have been on hold. Sparky, his guitar player and sometime songwriter, lives on royalties and dates starlets, which gets his picture into People magazine. Olly, Roy's first lover, has a half-ownership in a New York bookshop Roy had once bought. She is troubled by hives and strange allergies that make a handy macrobiotic takeout store essential, and lives a bookish and celibate life. Maggie, Roy's other lover, is living alone in the forest of some small and very troubled African country with Hilda, a chimpanzee. Maggie is trying to return Hilda, along with her fellow band of domesticated primates, into the wild. Told by fellow scientists that this is impossible, Maggie is determined to prove them wrong. Meanwhile, Hilda, brought up on television and coloring books, tries to maintain her links to the past by paging through old copies of Vogue--while a new recording by Roy with an African theme convinces Sparky and Oily that Roy wants them to go to Africa to be with Maggie, and that once there, he will reveal some stupendous truth. Tannen is a bit vague about this, but it doesn't matter all that much in the long run: the journey ends in a revelation of another kind, a more cathartic one, which leads to happiness all round. There is, as the title promises, life after Roy. A gifted writer, Tannen is able to create remarkable and credible characters like Olly, Maggie, and especially Hilda, who is never patronized into cuteness or, even worse, animal sainthood. Somehow, though, the characters and the story don't quite mesh. They deserve better.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1989
Publisher: Knopf