As Norman Rockwell paints, so Hodges writes, in an all-American prose, graced with unimpeachable homilies and centered on one of the nicest middle-aged heroes in recent fiction. Ebert Olney, a widowed plumber who has unwittingly struck it rich, lives in Stockbridge, Mass., the shrine of Rockwelliana, where he sits on his terrace, drinks beer and provides one-liners for the cartoons of 10-year-old Cheryl, who wants to drop out of school in order to draw full-time. Others who frequent the terrace are Heather, 13 and black, who keeps practicing lay-ups, and Olney's three tenants, one of whom, Otis, appeared as a child in a Rockwell painting. With one exception, all of the subjects of this particular painting live in Stockbridge, and a party is to be given in their honor. The exception is Mary Ostrowski, a widow of 63, who lives in nearby Pittsfield. When Mary and Olney literally bump into each other, romance and complications ensue. Woven through this charming novel by the author of Don't Tell Me Your Name are two more love affairs and some nasty revelations, but the reader is so enchanted by Olney that the other characters are just grace notes to the major melody. Reader's Digest Condensed Book Club selection. (August)
In this gentle romance about the uncertain road to love, retired plumber and widower Ebert Olney thinks he has found an answer to his loneliness when he chances to meet widowed librarian Mary Ostrowski at an inn. Although very different in background, the two are instantly attracted to each other and spend the night together, only to lose touch the next morning. Framing the romance is the story of ``Norman Rockwell's greatest painting'': 20 years after six people modeled for Rockwell, one of them acquires the painting and plans a reunion party. Pleasant reading, like Hodge's The Fabricator (1976) and Don't Tell Me Your Name (1978), with sympathetic characters and a wry touch of humor. Christine King, SUNY at Stony Brook Lib.