The Touch

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The beautiful but physically ailing Donna, her emotionally remote live-in lover, Will, and her capable and caring sister, Gayle, are professionals in their thirties whose thoughts do not turn past their careers, their pleasures, their immediate needs. Into their lives comes the charismatic and unstable Frank Chapman, a fervid evangelist who claims to be able to work miracles. As the three get drawn into his web, they are forced to alter the way they look at the world - and each other. For Frank's touch, his ...
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Overview

The beautiful but physically ailing Donna, her emotionally remote live-in lover, Will, and her capable and caring sister, Gayle, are professionals in their thirties whose thoughts do not turn past their careers, their pleasures, their immediate needs. Into their lives comes the charismatic and unstable Frank Chapman, a fervid evangelist who claims to be able to work miracles. As the three get drawn into his web, they are forced to alter the way they look at the world - and each other. For Frank's touch, his haphazard intervention, whether benevolent or malign, will overturn all that they thought was fixed and secure. As in Sleepwalking, Julie Myerson has spun a gripping tale that takes place where suffering and pain shatter the mirror of commonplace reality, and a trace of the supernatural gleams through the shards. Trenchant, perceptive, coolly compassionate, this novel is another confident step in the career of a rising young talent.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The basic formula of Myerson's second novel (after Sleepwalking ) is a familiar one: a mysterious man crashes headfirst into the lives of a London family, disrupting their daily existence and leaving much chaos in his wake. Donna, the younger of the two sisters who are at the center of the book, is afflicted with a mysterious back ailment that controls the rhythm not only of her own life but also, to a large degree, the lives of her lover, Will, and her older sister, Gayle. Frank is the bizarre, evangelical bum who disrupts their rhythms with the promise to heal Donna of her excruciating and disfiguring pain through the laying on of hands. The story fluctuates between the present lives of all the characters and Frank's dismal past. Whether Frank is simply a dangerous freak or a confused man truly touched by God is the question that hovers over the story. Unfortunately, this question becomes tedious after 200 pages and, unlike Donna's condition, the outcome of Frank's arrival, though it's certainly supposed to shock, is all too obvious. But Myerson's prose is the muscle holding up the spine of the plot. The writing is clear and neat throughout, and even when the plot weakens, her words flow along in a quiet and compelling manner. (June)
Library Journal
British novelist Myerson's first novel (Sleepwalking, LJ 1/95) was generally well received, and her second should win her a host of plaudits. Well-developed, credible characters and spare, beautiful prose are the hallmarks of this story about the nature of pain and the mysteries of religious belief. Physically disabled, Donna has lived her entire adult life in excruciating pain. When she, diffident lover Will, and sister Gayle rescue an old man after a mugging, his assertion that he can cure Donna is too tantalizing not to test. As he works his spell on Donna, the three skeptics discover that this faith healer's entrance into their lives is not as accidental as they believe. Myerson's skills in exploring the peculiar intricacies of relationships and delineating a character in a few, well-chosen phrases make this novel particularly haunting. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Mary Ellen Quinn
On a cold February day, three young Londoners find an elderly man lying unconscious in the park. The three are Gayle, a nurse; her sister, Donna; and Donna's lover, Will. They are accompanied by Kitty, Gayle's three-year-old daughter, the product of a brief liaison. The man they find is Frank Chapman, a religious fanatic who has recently lost his wife. Their decision to help Frank by getting him to a hospital fatally changes their lives. Donna suffers from scoliosis, which keeps her in pain most of the time, and Frank claims he can help her. Donna is skeptical at first, but Gayle and Will convince her to visit Frank, and she is in fact healed by his touch. After that, gratitude and a sense of obligation enable Frank to insinuate himself into their lives. But more than gratitude causes Gayle and Will to spend part of their weekend visiting him. They rekindle an old, unacknowledged spark, and the visits to Frank become an excuse to be together. All of the characters are driven by motives and passions that are more complex than they first seem. Such ambiguities help give this skillfully written novel a complexity and a disturbing edge.
Kirkus Reviews
Myerson follows up her acclaimed debut (Sleepwalking, 1995) with a similarly detailed study of family distress and dysfunction—but this time there's a wild card: An unbalanced evangelist who inserts himself into the family's unstable dynamic, with catastrophic consequences.

Frank Chapman is a bloody, sorry mess when Donna, her lover Will, and her sister Gayle find him semiconscious in a London park. The three get him to the hospital where Gayle works; and as the old widower recovers, she is both attracted to him and repelled; Inexplicably, he knows all about lovely Donna's twisted spine, which makes every day a painful trial for her, and he's certain that he can cure her. In time, Gayle is persuaded to let him try, and when Will is brought around too, Donna agrees to give it a shot. The faith healing works, and overnight Donna finds a new lust for life; she can't bring herself, however, to feel grateful to the unwashed, bizarre old man who made it possible. Gayle and Will visit Frank regularly to show their gratitude, even though they also find him difficult; as time passes, the two begin to take pleasure in each other's company, while Will and Donna become ever more estranged. During a family seaside vacation, complete with the sisters' mum, their brother Simon (a shiftless sponger with an unnatural affection for Gayle), and Frank, Gayle and Will's repressed passions emerge; they start an affair that continues back in London, even after Donna becomes pregnant. Frank, cut loose and left to fend for himself, festers in his own dark passions and memories, until a chance encounter with Will turns him from a healer for Jesus into an Old Testament avenger.

Honest characterization and a flair for exposing family failings work as well here as before—and even if the portrayal of the outsider ultimately becomes heavy-handed, Myerson is clearly adept at chronicling the wrenching doubts at work in even the most intimate relations.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385475075
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/1996
  • Edition description: First Edition in the U.S.A
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 1.08 (d)

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