The narrator of Ciment's quirky, sometimes funny, lyrical but disappointing love story is 15 when she falls for a kind widower 30 years her senior: Arthur accidentally rams his car into the trailer in which Kim and her loopy mom, Gloria, live. Kim's life has been bedlam; Gloria sells mail-order aphrodisiac perfumes, canine treadmills, weight-reducing solvents and other harebrained products while keeping constantly on the move in order to evade angry customers, the Food and Drug Administration and the postmaster general. Mother and daughter briefly join Arthur at his rented house in California, but when his relationship with Kim approaches the sexual, he flees. Several years later, after Kim has graduated from UC-Berkeley, she and Arthur meet again and become lovers, and she moves in with him. Meanwhile, Gloria's entrepreneurial world collapses, and in 1969 she crash-lands into their blissful household. Ciment ( Small Claims ) doesn't tell us enough about Kim's feelings or her sexual rivalry with her mother. Kim never comments on the age difference between herself and the too-gracious and considerate Arthur; their May-September union is simply a given. The offbeat ending, which telescopes the next 25 years, is anticlimactic and unconvincing. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The anomaly of childhood is that despite its brevity, childhood takes up a lot of square footage in memory's tight quarters." So says Kim, the narrator of this coming-of-age novel, whose childhood was a harried experience of chasing after the next golden opportunity, the one that would pay off. Kim's mother, Gloria, is an entrepreneur who sells her products through ads in the tabloids; though Gloria's products range from aphrodisiac perfumes to metal detectors to imaginary airplane rides in a pyramid scam, Kim figures out that her mother's real product is hope. Kim watches Gloria plan her businesses and sees that her motive is not money but the passion of dreams and that her primary customer is herself. Despite all she endures because of her mother's "idiosyncratic view of the world," Kim generously tries to understand Gloria. Through her understanding, she attains sympathy for the woman she ends up mothering. "The Law of Falling Bodies" is a story of survival and compassion told in a direct style that is comfortingly conversational.