Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThe problem with Reverend Melpomene Gilman, one of the two protagonists of Cravens's ( Heart's Desire ) new novel, is that the author has eschewed subtlety in delineating the minister's neurotic personality. If Cravens had balanced this portrayal with a more sympathetic one of James, Melpomene's husband, the narrative might have had some emotional appeal. As it is, however, this hermetic portrait of one day in a rapidly disintegrating marriage is a trial to read. In the chapters told from her point of view, Melpomene reveals herself to be a hypocritical, mendacious, manipulative woman whose self-pity and total lack of insight verge on the pathological. As cloyingly sweet and calm on the outside as she is vituperatively acid within, Melpomene ministers to the needy souls of her parish, submerging their cris de coeur to her own interior monologues. A veteran of two marriages, she has decided to take up again with a former lover, a well-known artist. Meanwhile, fearful, ineffectual art historian James, already anguished about his permanent writing block, tries his wimpish best to ingratiate himself with his harridan wife; seeking to avoid her hysterical rages, he feels guilty for fantasizing about a former lover of his own. Though she demonstrates psychological insight into a particular kind of self-deluding personality, Cravens's tortured excursion into two tormented minds is both melodramatic and unconvincing. (Oct.)
Library JournalCravens's fascinating novel is an honest portrayal of one long day in the life of the Reverend Melpomene Gilman and her husband, James. They both suppress the desire to be reunited with former lovers, only to discover to their anguish that they both want the same thing. Complicating the story line, Melpomene counsels people in the same situation as she--but, unfortunately, she does not really see the connection: ``Each day Melpomene could close the door behind her, sigh, and congratulate herself on once again turning in an excellent performance. Once again she had escaped judgment.'' Cravens finely weaves a tale showing that no one can really escape judgment in the affairs of the heart. This is an intense picture of the extraordinary things that can happen to human beings on any ordinary day. Highly recommended.-- Vicki Cecil, Johnson Cty. P.L., Greenwood, Ind.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
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