RELATIVE DISTANCES by Victoria Jenkins


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Screenwriter Jenkins makes her fiction debut with a short (144-page) novel about a Wyoming woman in ranch country. Myra, seduced at age 13 by her cousin Arlen, runs off with an older man after Arlen marries someone else. Her own marriage ends soon after the birth of a son, Tom. Child in tow, she drifts from job to job and man to man, until Tom goes off on his own at age 16. When Myra turns up at Arlen's ranch, where Tom is now working, no one in the family has seen her for years. Myra hopes to resume her affair with Mien--his marriage seems unhappy--but, instead, a dangerous attraction springs up between her and Arlen's bullied, searching son. Myra, as a woman, is available but unattainable; though she seems self-centered and cold, the author demonstrates her capacity for love not just through her continued attachment to Arlen, but through her spontaneous longing to offer physical affection to any man who shows signs of emotional or bodily hurt. Jenkins writes of guilt, silence and transience: most characters drift; those (like Arlen) who try to create a lasting legacy are defeated. But the stark drama here competes unsuccessfully for attention with the perfectly rendered background, including detailed and evocative accounts of calving, roundups, even a modern-day cattle drive. Ultimately, the novel reads like a personal essay on ranching with a few fictional elements thrown in--not wholly successful as fiction, then, but a treat for Western buffs.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Gibbs Smith