Lurie, Alison. Truth and Consequences.

NY: Viking, 2005.

Lurie is a first-rate storyteller, and has been for fifty years now, though her oeuvre isn’t huge. You take a stroll with her around a college campus in upstate New York, and she tells you things about the academics she knows, and their families, and before you know it, you’re caught up in their lives and relationships.

Jane Mackenzie has always tried to be a good person and has nearly always succeeded. She administers the university’s Humanities Center, housed in a bequeathed Victorian home, and which sponsors fellowships in literature and the arts every year. She’s good at her job and everyone likes her. She has also considered herself fortunate in her marriage to Alan, an architectural historian of note — he’s tall, handsome, athletic, and has had several books published. But more than a year ago, he fell awkwardly during a backyard volleyball game with his grad students and slipped a disk, and has been in continuous pain ever since. No matter what drugs or therapy he tries, even a spinal operation, it’s only getting worse. He can barely walk, he can’t drive, he can’t even sit for more than fifteen minutes. Jane has to do all the things around the house that he used to do, as well as looking after his needs. And he’s gaining weight and becoming seriously depressed. And Jane, though she hates herself for it, is becoming resentful.

Then Delia Delaney comes into the picture as one of this year’s fellows — famous for her Southern folklore-ish short stories and a pre-Raphaelite beauty and with a personal style that causes everyone with whom she comes in contact to worship her and hurry to do her bidding, including men and women of every sexual orientation. Or almost everyone, because Jane can’t stand her. And Alan — also chosen as a fellow — has an office right across the hall from hers in the Humanities Center. Nothing good can come from that. But at least Jane can talk to Delia’s husband, Henry Hull, who sort of lurks in the background and handles things for his wife. And he seems to be interested in Jane, too.

You can guess where this archetypal plot is going and you would be right, but only in a general way. And the journey to the end (and beginning) of things is very much worth the effort. Even Delia, while never really sympathetic, becomes at least understandable in her manipulations. And Lurie does it all so effortlessly.

Published in: on 29 April 2013 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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