A Desert of Pure Feelingby Judith Freeman
From the writer whose voice Carolyn See has characterized as one of the strangest, most distinguished in American fiction writing today ("There is really nothing to compare her with, except, maybe, the austere beauty of a Japanese rock garden"), here is a richly dramatic novel about a woman struggling to make peace with herself as a mother, a lover, an artist, and a friend.
Lucy Patterson has just encountered her past in the person of a man whom she has not seen for twenty-five years. Dr. Carlos Cabrera saved the life of her infant son, and it was her love for him that compelled her to end her marriage -- the first moment in an arc of emotional turbulence and upheaval that has since defined her existence. Her past having caught up with her, Lucy has come to an isolated motel in the desert outside Las Vegas to write out her life, reexamine it, and, she hopes, find its calm center. It's a journey she is determined to make alone, but in the next room is a young woman -- a single mother, stripper, and prostitute panicked about her own life -- whom Lucy finds she cannot, and finally does not want to, ignore. A fiercely odd pair, they nonetheless become indispensable to each other in navigating the emotional terrain of their past and in finding, separately and together, clear paths into the future.
A Desert of Pure Feeling is the finest work we have yet seen from a writer whose gifts, at once lyrical and tough-minded, become vividly apparent in this penetrating and compelling story.
From the Hardcover edition.
The past, "a country of ghosts," haunts many of the walking wounded in this deeply felt tale of redemptive love. Lucy Patterson, a writer in flight from her Idaho farm and from too many painful memories, at a dead end with her fiction, accepts an offer to be a guest writer (all expenses paid, her only obligation to give one reading from her work) on an ocean liner bound for England. On the ship she encounters Dr. Carlos Cabrera, a renowned surgeon, who operated on her two-year-old son when Lucy herself was a 19-year-old mother. Already alienated from her Mormon husband, (Freeman herself was raised as a Mormon) the intense apostate began a doomed affair with the older, cosmopolitan married man. During the ocean voyage, they renew their 20-year-old liaison and join in mourning for their lossesincluding that of Lucy's son, presumed dead in Guatemala, where he had gone to proselytize for the Mormon church. It's not long before Lucy must deal with yet another loss when Carlos either jumps or falls overboard from the liner soon after his long-secret past as a member of the Hitler Youth is revealed. Rootless, uncertain, Lucy goes to Las Vegas, where she becomes involved with Joycelle, a young hooker who has just discovered that she's HIV-positive. Lucy takes the young girl back to her isolated ranch, where Joycelle finds a kind of peace and Lucy discovers a sense of redemption in their strange bond. Lucy's puritanical observations on such subjects as sex, alochol, Las Vegas, and cosmetic surgery sound wonderfully prim, but they also give her fictive voice strength and consistency.
The burdens of the past provide the narrative logic in this powerful fiction, another chapter in Freeman's unique literature of apostasy.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 2 MB
Meet the Author
Judith Freeman is the author of Family Attractions, a collection of short stories, The Chinchilla Farm, and Set For Life. She lives in Challis, Idaho, and Los Angeles with her husband, photographer Anthony Hernandez. She reviews books regularly for the Los Angeles Times. Set For Life received the Western Heritage Award for Best Novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
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