LIGHT by Seymour Epstein


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Epstein's 11th novel (September Faces, 1987, etc.): a programmatic look at a middleaged, confused man--whose wife lives with a woman and whose daughter loves a married man. George Light has moved his ""patchy"" TV career from New York to Denver because his wife wants him far away after an infidelity. As narrator, he says his ""present intention is to really think about, and no doubt write about, the man-woman thing."" No D.H. Lawrence. like intensity from Epstein, of course, but instead a staid, plodding meditation on decency and change. Daughter Jessica visits in Denver; she's now a ""stunner,"" trying to decide between a year abroad and graduate school, who ""has been a child for eons, a teenager for centuries, and a woman only recently."" We don't expect much insight from such a pompous narrator, naturally, but that's the point: George has only recently been driven to reassess his life; and after Jessica leaves Denver, he calls reticent wife Ellen in New York, then remembers a long-ago brief affair in Paris and philosophizes on ""the general human abyss"": ""My theory is that things are so dark because we haven't seen the light."" After filling us in on the marriage-ending affair and his career, Light, a decent man for all his hurt, moves back to New York and tries to figure Ellen out: he discovers that she's living with a woman, Katie, and has a long talk first with Katie (""Some women simply became tired of battling maleness"") and then with Neil, his daughter's married lover. Finally, his idea about ""the man-woman thing"" seems destined to become a TV talk show, and he accepts his family for what they are: Jessica goes to grad school; Ellen continues her search to be herself; and the possibility for adjustment (if not happiness) comes full front. Stale stuff, though Epstein does hit a few solid high notes as he welcomes his nice middle-class family into the 20th century.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Henry Holt