RESCUING CLAIRE by Thomas Johnson


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 A clever, well-written trot through student life in 1960's Wisconsin. Henry Fitzgerald (``the Weird One''), half-owner of an exclusive resort--the Northern Lights Lodge in Iron County, Wisconsin--has always ``erred on the side of excessiveness.'' When he receives a letter from Claire Cohen, he feels compelled to tell his story, which, while a little precious at times, takes us into Madison and the usual assortment of student types. Claire, about whom Henry ``had a sense of inevitability,'' gets pregnant (not by Henry) and asks Henry for abortion money. Henry's lawyer brother warns him off Claire, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Claire decides against the abortion while Henry is getting to know Leonard Gent, a brilliant schizophrenic who preaches ``extemporaneously, ecstatically'' and seeing Airy, his fiancÇe. One thing leads to another, and before we know it the whole crew--including Claire's and Henry's mutual friend Norman O'Keefe--are all mixed together in a plot that doesn't work itself out until Claire goes to and returns from New York; Henry and Claire travel together in northern Wisconsin (``so silent and empty it might be controlled by a foreign power''); and Claire, in premature labor, gives birth to a stillborn child and ends up controlled by the diabolical Gent. The climax comes when Henry and O'Keefe decide to ``rescue'' Claire-- only to end up in the hands of the police. Which is where the lawyer brother comes into play, of course, and the book ends with a whimper.... Still, Johnson pulls off this first novel, turning trite material into delightful muscular prose that makes him a writer to watch.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8128-4012-7
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991