EVENING by Susan Minot


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Minot (Folly, 1992, etc.) aims high in taking a long look at the beginning and end of a love-life--in a project that's not without its gripping moments but that requires an excess of artifice to stay aloft and doesn't steadily convince. Ann Lord, 65, is dying of cancer, attended by a nurse and her various adult offspring from three not-so-happy marriages. In matters of love, Ann's entire life, it seems, has been in one way or another less than blissful--though all might have been otherwise if things had been slightly different back in 1954--when Ann was 25--during a gala seaside weekend celebrating a friend's marriage. Those were the three days when Ann met (""The person's face seemed lit from within""), loved (""The great thing was happening to her""), and lost (to another, by a cruel twist of fate) the ultra-handsome doctor and Korea vet whom she (though not necessarily the reader) fell in love with at first sight (""His tall legs kept coming toward her""). Minot's decision to pin the whole weight of the novel on one weekend causes much strain, and her best successes come when she drops romance altogether and lets her character (‡ la Mrs. Ramsay) meditate on loss and the passing of time ("". . . they would last and not she . . . The things in the house were not herself""). Elsewhere, though, the burden of making the 40-year-ago weekend (""the highest point in one's life"") significant enough for the book to work tempts the author back into her familiar Hemingway-style filler-mode (""Ann had had feelings with a few other boys and with each there was something particular . . . which was unique and it seemed that the . . . feeling around Harris Arden was more unique than usual"") or into topping the story with a sensational event to try to up the psychological ante. As always with Minot, moments of incisive and telling beauty, mood, and atmosphere, but also, in this case, much that's much less.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1998
ISBN: 0375700269
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf