DEGREES OF LOVE by Rachel Basch

DEGREES OF LOVE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A perfectly pitched tale, about a family literally and metaphorically on trial for child abuse, that illuminates the convoluted workings of the heart, and of the wider world, with grace and intelligence. Jack Keliher and Lily Sterne, who live just outside Boston, have had a loving and close marriage, strengthened by their love of cooking. They are professional chefs who until recently owned a catering business and store, but life hasn't been easy recently. The business has failed, they owe lots of money, and though they were pleased when Katie was born, a welcome addition to sons Greg and Ben, Lily experienced post-partum depression and hasn't really recovered, even though Katie is now 18 months old. She also misses working with Jack, who has taken a corporate catering job to help pay the bills. When Katie is accidently burned, Lily is accused by the hospital, and then the State, of being irresponsible. Her unhappiness and mental health history--she was hospitalized as a teenager in New York for attempted suicide--are central to the State's charge. The family is investigated by a zealous and nicely obtuse social worker who puts the worst interpretation on everything. Katie recovers but is put in her grandmother's custody, and as Lily and Jack prepare for a hearing, collecting affidavits, getting a lawyer, and being evaluated by a psychiatrist, both record their feelings. Jack finds himself blaming Lily, while Lily, heartsick, feels isolated and worries about the effects of the accident on the two boys. She's exonerated by the hearing, but the aftermath is not much easier. She begins receiving hate mail and nasty phone calls; Ben needs counseling as he reacts badly to the protracted stress; and Jack and Lily remain estranged. Hard-earned insights lead eventually to a loving reconciliation and the promise of new, and better, beginnings. A well-rendered victory of love and common sense in a notable debut novel.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton