In the two years since they were married, nothing has mattered so much to either Saul or Patsy as the fact that they are just that: Saul-and-Patsy. And though they've ended up in a small city of Five Oaks, Michigan, their life together is an idyll of domestic romance. At least for a while.
With the birth of their daughter, Saul is shocked to find himself feeling envious of the attention Patsy lavishes on her. But at the same time, his own attention is being drawn away from home by a different child: one of his students, a deeply troubled sixteen-year-old boy has become darkly obsessed with Saul's life. And though Saul can't see it coming, the shattering outcome of the boy's obsession will lead Saul to question everything he has always assumed about himself, and about Saul-and-Patsy.
©2003 Charles Baxter; (P)2003 New Millennium Audio, All Rights Reserved
"Stellar novelist Baxter's...prose is succulent, his characters magnetic, his humor incisive, his decipherment of the human psyche felicitous, and his command of the storyteller's magic absolute." (Booklist)
An exceptional book with well-drawn characters who drive the novel. The interfaith marriage, the anti-Semitism in the small Michigan city, the conflicts between Saul and his mother and brother make this an engaging and insightful literary novel. The aimless/pointless suicide and the growth of the "Himmel" cult show a perceptive understanding of youth culture. Well worth reading, or listening to.
As I understand it, the characters Saul and Patsy originated in short stories Charles Baxter wrote some years ago. In developing the situations of these appealingly quirky characters into a novel, the seams do sometimes show. Occasionally, the reader (listener) will observe a repetition of exposition that was given earlier in the novel, almost as if someone had forgotten to edit this out. For me, the first half of this novel dragged. I wondered whether I would finish this book. However, in the second half, the plot took on a new momentum that was quite engaging. The puzzling death of one of Saul's former students set in motion a series of confrontations between Saul and the community and a realization on Saul's part of the need for personal change and development. John Rubinstein's narration was superb with nuances for each character. Although he was a pleasure to listen to, his voice did not quite capture the youthful, awkward, sometimes rebelious, sometimes confused voice of Saul, a twenty-something young adult.
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