LIVING IN ETHER by Patricia Geary

LIVING IN ETHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Deirdre Gage, the narrator of this unsatisfying but fairly tantalizing first novel, is a 25-year-old Los Angeles medium, into yoga and ballet, but--one of the book's charms--never fully sure of the supernatural source of her powers. Without question, Deirdre goes into trances for her matronly clients, giving way to varied, talkative spirits. But: ""God knows I hope this isn't fraud. I seem to be the only one who suspects me: I suspect a double or triple or infinite personality. . . ."" Likewise, when Deirdre starts finding evidence of her brother Robert's ghost (writing on the mirror, shoes arranged to spell a message, etc.), she can't be absolutely sure--nor can the reader--that she isn't herself the poltergeist-y culprit. And, in the manner of more conventional first novels, Robert's ghost provokes flashbacks to Deirdre's predictably kooky childhood and adolescence: a weird mother who disappeared into an asylum (or was it just into adultery?), then returned to lead Deirdre into the psychic-convention circuit; an oppressive older sister (""she would have made a good Cotton Mather""); and, above all, beloved brother Robert--whose suicide is eventually revealed to have been connected to (yes, once again) brother/ sister incest. This incest secret, which Deirdre confronts only after a desert visit to ""Rev. Trudy, Healer"" and a direct encounter with Robert's spirit, is a crude, clichÉd mis-step in such a wisp of a novel. Similarly, Deirdre's bizarre relationship with a would-be client--magnetic Brandon Severr, who seeks spiritual contact with Yukio Mishima while pursuing oral sex and ritual suicide with passive Deirdre--eventually slides from zesty strangeness (à la Thomas Berger) into something more like psychopathology. Still, Geary does succeed in giving Deirdre a distinctive, if slightly too-cutesy, voice here--as she clumps vaguely around Hollywood, finds mystical guidance from the settings on laundromat washers, or engages in shrewd introspection (""Humiliation is supposed to create humility, but a strange kind of self-love thrives on acts that seem to demonstrate contrition""). And, though uncertainly poised between oddball character-sketch and clinical case-history, this slight first novel is an often-amusing, agreeably edgy, and definitely promising fiction debut.

Pub Date: April 7th, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row