COOL'S RIDGE by Ursula Perrin


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Pursuing themes and situations near to the heart of her five previous novels (The Looking-Glass Lover, 1989, etc.), Perrin here places a troubled young woman on an upstate New Jersey communal farm, where she must cope with an inadequate marriage--as well as with her severely dysfunctional family--before discovering who she is and what she really wants from life. It's the summer of '72 when love, or the idea of it, brings 25-year-old Liz Stillwell to the farm at Cool's Ridge. There, she reunites with the wealthy, elusive charmer Skip, with whom she's had an intermittent romance since college. But his ongoing aloofness and the group dynamics of the place--a tangle of confused relationships and a commitment to setting up a community newspaper, with Skip's backing--confound her. Meanwhile, her arrival at the farm coincides with her parents' divorce; Liz not only has to contend with emotional upheaval from that but also with the aftermath, as her father remarries and her mother becomes terminally ill, raising difficult questions as to who will care for her hopelessly schizophrenic, often institutionalized brother. Although she's attracted to the brooding, brainy Leonard, the paper's editor and husband of the beautiful Alice, who seems to have a thing for Skip, Liz turns to her old lover as a safe port in the storm, eventually marrying him. Their relationship barely improves, however, and when, shortly after her mother's death, brother John goes AWOL and comes to visit, quickly becoming a suspect when a neighbor is murdered, Liz has to leave the farm. Returning to her mother's house, she finally finds the support and tranquility she needs, within herself. Any writer pounding out the same thematic chords in successive works risks redundancy, but here the notes sounded seem to sink deeper in, giving characters a worn but comfortable feel, and their personalities a subtle, complex texture that comes from aging well.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Permanent