RANGE OF LIGHT by Valerie Miner


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The High Sierras upstage the protagonists in this tale of a friendship renewed when two women take to the mountains for a week of hiking and camping. In alternating voices, lesbian Kath and heterosexual Adele reprise their pasts and describe their reactions to the scenery, and to each other, as they climb the trails of the Eastern Sierra one summer. For Kath, who makes an annual pilgrimage to the mountains, usually alone, the Sierra is “the backbone of California imagination and possibility.” She loves her native state with a fierce passion, and what she still can’t forgive Adele for is her long-ago decision to go to college in the East, and then to stay there after graduation. The hike now was to be a reunion of the five high-school friends who had first made the trip 25 years before, but the other three are unable—or unwilling—to come along. And so Kath and Adele, best friends from grammar school on, warily set off alone. Along the way, Kath recalls her love affair with Tom, who went to fight in Vietnam and left her pregnant; the abortion she had; her problems with family; a failed lesbian affair; and her failure to complete college, which has meant a succession of low-paying jobs. Adele, an art historian at Wellesley, has two sons and is married to Lou, a fellow academic, but her life seems strangely empty. She also can’t forgive Kath for not being supportive when Adele’s sister committed suicide. Issues are raised and resolved in nicely rendered settings, but the emotions and the gripes seem as thin as the book’s resolution following an obligatory moment of drama when Adele gets lost in the woods. Miner’s obvious feminist agenda (A Walking Fire, 1994, etc.) adds unwelcome weight to an already overly portentous tale.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-944072-86-0
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998


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