Lucy, a professor at a university near Boston, is turning forty. She has achieved what, as a romantic, novel-reading girl of the suburbs, she set out to do in her life: have affairs, travel, and write booksbiographies of women that read like novels. Now Lucy wants more. She seeks not just love (she has had that) or just any marriage (she discovers she is not that desperate) but a true companion with whom she can make a home. Lucy is also haunted by the fact that, at forty, her chance of having a child is slipping away.
There are three very different men in her life, but none can join her in her vision of home and family. David, an older man and fellow professor, is quite content to be with Lucy on the weekends and to have his house and his work all to himself the rest of the week. Arthur, who has just taken a job at the university and is caring for his dying wife, is attracted to Lucy, but his desire for her is more fantasy than anything he might act upon. Michael, a historian of gardens who is on sabbatical in Japan with a wife he no longer loves, has left Lucy with memories of a tumultuous, passionate affair and no hope for the future. It is time for Lucy to act for herself and make her vision of a new life a reality.
Marilyn Sides invokes the beauty of faraway places and employs rich, lyrical language to describe Lucy's quest for a profoundly ordinary life. The Genius of Affection confirms Bob Shacochis' praise for Marilyn Sides's collection of stories, The Island of the Mapmaker's Wife &Other Tales: "What a fascinating and original mind has Marilyn Sides, a writer whose head and heart brim with the unlimited world. . . . Ms. Sides makes writing itself seem like a dangerous and erotic pleasure."
|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1 ED|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.92(d)|
Read an Excerpt
How lucky, how comforting to have a lover on one's fortieth birthday. Lucy Woolhandler had managed, at the last minute, to meet the deadline. The idea of such a deadline she knew to be ridiculous. She wasn't living, was she, in an updated Jane Austen novel, where the problem was to get the pathetic heroine married, not at twenty-two or twenty-five, but at forty? She laughed to herself while driving home from work on this hot, muggy September afternoon. Probably rain. Fortieth-birthday weather.
At thirty-nine, though, dying of loneliness had not been funny, especially not with the prospect of three more deadly lonely decades almost assured her. Lucy had set out to rescue herself, a rescue executed in something like a panic. Six months ago, she had found David Shure. He had been right there under her nose at the Institute where she worked: an unmarried man, an attractive man, a good man. Although he was in his late fifties, the pressing fact of their joint need to be rescued--for she soon persuaded herself that he, too, had to be rescued--made the difference in their ages of little consequence. She had lingered at receptions to talk to him, then she asked him to dinner, and then they fell in love.
As she drove past a garden nursery, its yard forlorn except for a few straggling plants, Lucy--moved still by the spirit of rescue--turned in. As a birthday present to herself, she bought two marked-down perennials, a lavender stunted in its small pot and a coralbells with brown-edged leaves and brown crispy little flowers perched on high thin brown stalks.Packing them into the car, though, she considered her cross purposes. These "second-year perennials," in garden lingo, would take that long to come up with any flourish, yet in two years, maybe she would be living with David, sharing a garden with David. So it was foolish to buy the plants. Still, once she got home, she knelt down and took great pleasure in making room for them in the garden, grown so compact with all her other finds. For one year--two years at the most--the plants would have a home, until she moved and the landlord let the garden go back to weeds, or asphalted it over, as did many of her neighbors in Somerville, one of those small town
s edging the city of Boston. The thought of abandoning her garden made her sad. Maybe she wouldn't have to abandon it, though. Maybe she could transplant the flowers, make room for them in David's yard.
Turning the sprinkler on to give the garden a good drink, even though it might rain later, she glanced at her watch. Six o'clock. David would be here at seven. She had to hurry. David didn't like to be kept waiting.
She showered, put on a bit of makeup. Her age showed in her mirror face. Her mother's cheekbones would always give it a strong shape, but already there was a fleshiness around the chin, squaring it off. In her bedroom, pushing back hanger after hanger of silk, linen, velvet, and wool, Lucy was unable to make up her mind what to wear. She should get rid of all these old clothes, except for one or two or three plain cotton things, some sort of monastic habit. A habit would save her time getting dressed. She would save lots of money, too, by not buying any more clothes. At forty the balance of her savings account, three hundred dollars, wasn't much of a safety net. Lucy pictured her safety net as the tiny net used to scoop goldfish from their bowls.
She wouldn't need much money for the rest of her life, would she? In the last twenty years, she had already done everything costly, in terms both of money and of the expense of spirit, that she had once ambitioned to do as a certain kind of novel-reading girl growing up in a quiet middle-class suburb. She had taken so many trips to Europe and Central America. She had worked many boring, ill-paying jobs so she could write and had at last published, not exactly the novels she thought she would write, but two biographies of women artists, Praise God, Paint Insects, Make Love: Agnes Seitz and Her Painter's Eden 1679-1700 and Dear Sweetheart: Maria Martin's Artistic Collaboration and Correspondence with John James Audubon 1831-1851, which read like novels, as many of her reviews, most of which had been quite favorable, pointed out. And she had fallen in love tumultuously three or four times before she fell in love with David, the last time spectacularly and painfully with a married man, Michael Orme--that ha
d cost her almost everything.
For the rest of her life, Lucy could and should and would lead a simple, economical life. She would continue to work at the Institute, where she had landed a teaching job six years ago, a very respectable job with a modest salary. She would continue to write. Already she was launched on her third book, the story of an American woman, a socialite turned collector named Lucy Baldrich, who had traveled to Japan around the turn of the century and brought back rare Japanese antique textiles. The research complete, she could start writing anytime now. She would stay in love and stay at home with David.
Lucy tried on the one very plain black dress she owned. Too tight, she ate too well with David. She peeled the dress off and, as she turned to throw it on her bed, looked in the dresser mirror at this too-round belly. Probably her age showing here, too.