Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breaking and Entering, by Eileen Pollack

Louise is a school social worker, her husband Richard is a psychologist. Along with their five-year-old-daughter Molly, they live a happy and prosperous life in California. Then a patient of Richard's commits suicide and, on a camping trip designed to get away from his problems, he accidentally sets fire to a Colorado forest. Responding to this "avalanche of woes," Richard finds a job at a prison in Michigan, and the rest of the family moves along with him.

Far from the liberal bastions of northern California, the family is living in the heart of militia country in 1995. As their marriage falls apart, Richard, who is Jewish, finds himself learning to shoot guns in the company of what might be termed conservative wing-nuts, while Louise has found the town's small cadre of liberals, including the Unitarian minister, with whom she starts an affair. Pollack manages to convey a feeling of dread, and I was sure that the story's climax was going to involve a bloodbath of some kind. However, only a minor character and pet are sacrificed, and the book limps along to a

Pollack sums up the gist of her novel near the end, when she says ". . . America is a lot more countries than she thought it was. An even within those countries, there are other, smaller counties, some of which are so tiny and isolated they appear to be inhabited by only one or two citizens, although those few citizens are so heavily armed as to pose a threat to the larger countries that surround them." I won't argue with her point, but I think a better novel would have conveyed the idea more subtly and with greater depth.

Favorite passage:
A person never outgrows his younger self. He only accretes older selves around it.

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