BOONDOCKING by Tricia Bauer
Kirkus Star

BOONDOCKING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The promise of Bauer's quietly acute story collection, Working Women (1995), is movingly realized in this contemporary odyssey of a retired couple who journey with their young granddaughter through America amid upcropping dangers and fears. For 15 years on the road--that ""fast forward"" landscape of ""stores, campsites, road signs""--there are brief dockings within the convivial culture of the ""common backyard"" of the transient retired; painful touchdowns at old places that can still claim them; and repeated sightings of the detested son-in-law who has vowed to regain his daughter. Sylvia and factory worker Clayton had lived in their Maryland home for 31 years. Their only child, Janice, died when her husband Melvin, high on angel dust, crashed the car. The couple fought for and won custody of baby Rita, and so the trailer they'd bought for a vacation becomes a permanent home. For Sylvia, the old home and its possessions, empty of Janice, had been empty of meaning; now with Rita, even in a tiny space, there is ""proof that once we lived like everyone else,"" a family. There's an initial exhilaration and a sense of adventure that give way to the odd stability of motion. Sylvia and Clayton, though, have a more complex agenda than their retired peers, who seem to be attempting to outrun death. They must keep Rita safe from Melvin, a specter in pursuit. (Rita, wise at 12, fascinated but afraid, imagines him as an ant, scurrying over a map of the US.) Rita will dream of herself driving her grandparents ""to a country where they'd feel totally safe."" When she's 16, Melvin is finally, successfully faced down, and, shorn of his demonic aura, vanishes. At the close, Rita, having learned something necessary about reality and the nature of love, goes on her own quest. A gentle tale of good people moving through a prosaic yet curiously charged landscape, giving new shading to the concepts of home and family.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Bridge Works