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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 losses—including 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.