Beard (Dear Zoe, 2005) very faintly echoes Updike at Updike’s weakest in a golf novel about a suburban Pittsburgh lawyer.
Michael, 45, and spunky, beautiful Kelly, 40, who met when she applied to be his secretary, are married and have two lovely daughters. When Michael announces that he wants to train for golf’s senior gold circuit, Kelly agrees to support his ambition if he can score under 70 two times. But then she announces she’s pregnant. Still traumatized by her pregnancy that ended in stillbirth, Michael shows no enthusiasm for having another child, leading Kelly to withdraw from him sexually. Michael’s pharmaceutical stock has taken a sharp turn upward, leading him to believe that he’s about to attain independent wealth. Sexually adrift, he begins frequenting “sexual therapy” center Healing Touch, deluding himself that what he’s offered there does not constitute infidelity. But when he develops a guilty conscience, he tells Kelly all about it, and surprise—she tosses him out. Around the same time, his stock plummets, and to make it all worse, he’s had to move back in with mother and father. He turns to golf, and as he plays under the tutelage of wise and loyal caddy Sal, he reminisces about his romantic and sexual history, trying to figure out where he went wrong and how to get back on track. Now on the golf course, Sal explains to Michael that he has the skill to win but must find the soul to play. As Michael readies for the game of his life, Sal arranges for Michael’s parents and Kelly to make an appearance. With earnest, chapter-introducing quotes from James Taylor, John Steinbeck, et al., the author clearly has sincere pretensions for his characters and story. But his intentions fall flat. There’s no doubt that Kelly is taking Michael back, and that the life he remembers is merely tepid. Time to move on.
Some pretty good golf tips from Sal, but that’s about it to hold your attention.