In novels such as The Handmaid of Desire and A Woman Run Mad, John L'Heureux brings us the vagaries of middle age, marriage, academia, and religion with a blend of memorable characterizations and twisting plots.
John L'Heureux's characters are generally people in uncomfortable spots that tend to get infinitely less comfortable as the action goes on. In Having Everything, the title describes the middle-aged psychiatrist at its center. Technically, he does have everything: a prestigious Harvard teaching position, a beautiful wife, and two great kids. Trouble is, Philip Tate's beautiful wife is addicted to booze and pills, and Tate discovers new, self-destructive urges in himself that range from breaking and entering to infidelity with an equally screwed-up woman.
In An Honorable Profession, a popular high school English teacher whose personal life is a bit of a mess becomes even more troubled when a young student grows close to him and he finds himself destroyed by accusations of impropriety. L'Heureux revels in thorny issues, whether it's a marriage that's falling apart (quite devastatingly in The Shrine at Altamira) or a priest's decision whether or not to remain with the church (in 2002's The Miracle) -- a decision that L'Heureux himself faced when he ultimately decided to end his vocation as a Jesuit priest in 1971.
In his other, more farcical novels such as the academic satire The Handmaid of Desire and the comedy-thriller A Woman Run Mad, L'Heureux reveals his skill at creating a stable of nutty characters and bouncing them off one another. He is occasionally accused of being anachronistic: The New York Times said of The Handmaid of Desire, "Perhaps the time has passed when academic satire can be carried off successfully," and Salon accused Having Everything of being "so prim that it seems to belong to another time altogether." But if L'Heureux's themes aren't always new, his readers appreciate the funny and poignant twists he brings to them.
Good To Know
Joan Polston L'Heureux has been the dedicatee of all of her husband's books since their marriage in 1971.
L'Heureux is a former Jesuit priest who left the order in 1971.
L'Heureux (pronounced Ler-ruh) has taught fiction writing and literature at Stanford University since 1973.
He is also the author of four volumes of poetry, which have gone out print; and a memoir, Picnic in Babylon: A Priest's Journal, also out of print.