Spencer's The Jack of Hearts fiction is always cause for celebration. This novel, a Greek tragedy in modern dress, concerns a generation of wasted lives--the Vietnam War protesters who went into hiding or exile and lost their youth and, sometimes, their future. In sure and luminous prose, Spencer follows Mary Kerr Harbison, born into a distinguished Southern family, who loses her adored father at a young age and is left in the steely grasp of her cold, abusive mother. A promising dancer, Mary gives up her career when she falls in love with Jefferson Blaise, a brilliant social activist finishing his doctoral dissertation with a liberal professor/mentor who encourages Jeff to speak out against the war. ``He is my destiny,'' Mary says of Jeff; what she does not know is that they will be star-crossed. They marry and have a daughter; become fugitives in Montreal; separate when Jeff is forced to go underground. Abandoned by the people Jeff has trusted to take care of her, Mary finds herself in an exorable downward spiral; she almost loses her life, and her child. For while Jeff acts out of conviction, Mary is the victim of love and of fate. Handled with subtlety and grace, the narrative becomes gripping as Mary's mother and stepfather intervene and cause the final tragedy. This is a story so credible it evokes a shock of recognition, so moving it will make your heart ache. Aug.
A haunting examination of another group of casualties of Vietnam--those who protested the war, evaded the draft, and became displaced sometimes with loved ones in Canada. Mary Kerr Harbison, whose well-bred widowed mother can turn abusive, is a gifted young dancer who wants only to dance. But she is drawn to brilliant political activist Jefferson Blaise, who won't stay away and becomes her lover, her husband, and her destiny. Jeff's destiny, however, is to act on his beliefs, becoming more deeply involved in dangerous antiwar activities and sweeping Mary along in the wake of unalterable events. The elements which distinguish Spencer's fiction e.g., The Salt Line, LJ 1/84, Light in the Piazza , 1960 are here: richly plotted narrative told in diverse voices, with fluid shifts in time and a keen sense of place, and prose remarkable for its clarity and style. Here the subject is worthy of her art. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/91.-- Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va.
Elizabeth Spencer is the author of nine novels, seven collections of short stories, a memoir, and a play. Her novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) was adapted for the screen in 1962 and transformed into a Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name in 2005. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.