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The Track of Real Desires

The Track of Real Desires

by Beverly Lowry

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``Traditionally, the way to get by in the Delta was to drink hard and hold on to your eccentricities,'' comments one character in Lowry's haunting new novel. The residents of Eunola, Miss., are jolted from their daily coping mechanisms by the return home of Leland Standard, who had ``escaped'' 30 years earlier, and is now back with her illegitimate 19-year-old son, whose paternity she has never revealed, and yet another secret. In the course of one day and night, eight of Leland's former friends gossip about her and then gather at a dinner party in her honor, which turns into a debacle, ending with two acts of sexual union and one death. Lowry brings us into the interior lives of her sometimes foolish, tacky or pretentious characters to reveal the vulnerability, fear and tenuous hope that governs their existences. These people do drugs to stop their emotional pain, sleep around out of boredom or renounce sex to erase bad memories. With the exception of Leland's son and her best friend's child, all are over 50 and still searching for direction and meaning, wondering how they had strayed so far from ``the track of real desires.'' Meanwhile, their town has turned into a paradigm of an economically depressed community where businesses and farms are failing, where civil rights has changed demographics but not inherent racism, and old values are dying. Lowry's ( Breaking Gentle and the nonfiction Crossing Over ) witty asides keep the narrative airborne, and her affection for her motley characters renders them credible. But nearly every one of them is eccentric in some way, and readers may grow impatient with such a surfeit of bizarre behavior, no matter how adept the author is at portraying it. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Lowry's latest novel is set in provincial Eunola, Mississippi, among a group of hapless middle-aged friends who view one another much as they did in high school. When we first meet them, everyone is anxiously anticipating the party Baker Farrish has planned for Leland Standard, who has come home for a brief stay. No one knows that Leland has returned because she needs comfort and support to face the possibility of breast cancer; all they know is that they want to look good at her party. Baker, who enjoys emotional spectacles, chooses his guests as much for their ability to create a scene as for their ties to Leland. What happens when everyone meets is the most amusing part of this bittersweet novel about what might have been. Lowry's skillful use of humor and well-placed irony elevates her sad theme just enough to make it bearable. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Janet Wilson Reit, Univ. of Vermont Lib., Burlington
Joanne Wilkinson
After writing the critically acclaimed memoir "Crossed Over" (1992), Lowry returns to fiction with a surprisingly dark story about a group of fiftysomething childhood friends. Leland Standard arrives in her hometown of Eunola, Mississippi, after a decades-long absence harboring fear about her health and a secret about her illegitimate son's paternity. Her eccentric hosts have planned a lavish dinner party in her honor, and as they drink their way through the afternoon and well into the evening, Lowry provides cinematic glimpses into the conflicted emotions of the 11 people who gather at the table. Heavy doses of angst are served up along with the bearnaise sauce, and as the dinner companions somewhat awkwardly engage in social chatter, their haunting preoccupation with their own mortality sounds a distinct counterpoint. They all have secrets--incest, drug abuse, sexual desires--but it is their own fragility at midlife that forms their common ground. Lowry walks a fine line here as she deftly prevents her characters' concerns from degenerating into a collective whine; instead, she invokes with skill and compassion the great southern theme of endurance.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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1st ed

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