Picks and Pans Review: Enduring Love
Joe and Clarissa Rose are celebrating their reunited love with a spring picnic when they see a hot-air balloon come untethered in a sudden gust of wind—with a crying boy trapped alone in the gondola. Within seconds, Joe and four other men desperately grab onto the ropes, trying to control the rising balloon. If they all hold on, they can rescue the child, but one by one, each man lets go to save himself—except for one of them, a doctor, who is carried up and away before his strength fails and he plummets to his death. The boy, it turns out, lands safely.
Sustaining the symbolic and narrative power of that fictional opener is no easy task, and, wisely, award-winning British author Ian McEwan doesn't try. Instead he uses the tragedy and its aftermath to examine the nature of love, and of letting go, in all of its complex permutations. Guiltridden, depressed and plagued by nightmares, Joe begins doubting—and destroying—his career as a science writer and his relationship with his beautiful and adoring wife, Clarissa, a professor of literature. And he has no idea how to cope with Jed Parry, a deranged fellow rescuer and religious lunatic who telephones Joe one night to declare his love for him and then begins stalking him, leaving dozens of phone messages and pursuing him in tears through the streets of London.
McEwan specializes in lives undone by the bizarre, tragic twist of fate and has produced such critically admired novels as The Comfort of Strangers, The Child in Time and Black Dogs. In this tale, love is tenuous, but thanks to the healing powers of forgiveness, it is also resilient. (Nan A. Talese/Double-day, $23.95)
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