HIGHER GROUND by Perry Oldham


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This first novel about a Dallas architect's painful midlife passage carries a full load of clichÉs: a haunted Vietnam vet, a Yuppie marriage gone stale, an oil well on the old family property. And Oldham also deadens the story with too much secondhand prose: jaws inevitably are ""square,"" eyes ""pierce,"" and in marriage ""each learned to compromise."" Aaron Teague, the architect, now in his late 30s, conducts a bittersweet review of his life, sparked by the stabbing death of his younger brother, who'd caught the nasty legacies of the 60's, drifting through poor jobs with needle-tracked arms. Aaron himself had a bumpy ride out of the 60's--after starting college, he was drafted and went to Vietnam--but he became the only Teague to rise into the professional class, driven there by marriage to Deedee, a college sweetheart, a successful lawyer, and daughter of a wealthy Dallas family. He remains a wallflower in her high-society circles; the marriage ends; their young daughter shuttles between them; and Aaron finds some solace and love with a woman 14 years his junior. A side story, poorly woven into this one, follows an inheritance fight among his mother and her sisters over the old family property and an oil well. As case history this book has some emotional weight, but as fiction it remains amateurish.

Pub Date: July 6th, 1987
Publisher: Mercury--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)