THE WAY TO ST. IVES by Sonia Gernes


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A gently appealing, decorously composed first novel about a middle-aged single woman who finds long-buried strengths of character and spirit, aided in part by a new, liberal Catholicism. In a small, rural Minnesota town, defeated and despairing Rosie Dearie, 41, mourns the death of her good-natured brother Jack, for whom she has kept house since Mother died. Rosie mulls the overheard comments of neighbors: ""Rosie never did do much of anything . . . poor thing. . . . She never even had a date. . . ."" And, from the start, Rosie has felt ineligible for marriage--or the convent; after all, she had ""fits""--fainting spells--as a child, which gave Mother a reason to say: ""I'll take care of you . . . and stay away from anything nasty. . . . You stay away from boys. . . ."" But now, shortly after Jack's funeral, Rosie suddenly plays hooky from her cafeteria job in the Catholic grammar school, drives off to Sioux Falls, buys a burgundy pants suit, sees Dr. Zhivago, goes to a chivaree, and then is unaccountably tortured with encroaching angers and threatening sexual fantasies. ""In one day all the barriers she had carefully constructed of religion and will, and long endurance had come tumbling down and she could make no sense of it."" Still, at the chivaree she's formally introduced to pleasant, middle-aged Ray Bowen, a widower who delivers milk to the school. And miraculously they begin to date--with Rosie's exhilaration at being ""a regular unit in society . . . she was 'with' somebody."" Meanwhile, in the close community of St. Ives, there are unsettling currents: Rosie and other women have been receiving obscene telephone calls; young Father Griffin has been noticed to be drinking heavily; Rosie wonders about rebellious Sister Carol Ann--just one of the church people whose flawed humanity Rosie will come to understand. And there'll be a final crisis of soul after eloping with Ray in spite of a swarm of doubts: betrayal, near-suicide, life-embracing salvation. An earnest, homily-like tale with authentic small-town/clerical talk . . . and Rosie is a touching Seeker.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1982
Publisher: Scribners