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patch and the boy with a squint form a group that survives this holocaustic experience. Saramago's message is nothing so simple as "love will conquer all," but love, acts of selflessness and courage do go a long way toward combating the plague. ' Saramago sustains the blindness metaphor so well that the reader often begins to feel blind. Colors are rarely mentioned; facial and body features remain vague; visual details are limited to shapes, barriers, light or dark. Saramago's fine balance between believable narration and philosophical meditation will pull in the intelligent reader and keep her there. Occasionally, the narrative voice can seem intrusive and rather ponderous in its pronouncements. Stylistically, Saramago lacks the grace and lightness of Milan Kundera, with whom he invites a comparison. Unlike Kundera, whose aesthetic delights often force the narrative to take a backseat, however, Saramago has created a story and characters that will remain with the reader a very long time. (NS) Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout Random House, 1998, 304 pp., $22.95 In order to keep up with Amy, her bright, high-school-aged daughter, single mother Isabelle Goodrow reads the classics during her lunch break at the shoe mill where she works as head secretary. Despite the tears in her eyes over Madame Bovary's tragic end, Isabelle concludes that the French doctor's wife was selfish and unloving in her treatment of her famUy. After all, unlike Isabelle, she had the love of a good man and the respect of a dutiful daughter. Isabelle also wonders if Hamlet wasn't being a little melodramatic . She had troubles too, but never thought of killing herself. Her literary self-education ends when she decides, "life was difficult enough without bringing someone else's sorrows to crash down about your head." Life is indeed difficult for Isabelle in Shirley Falls, a small New England mill town where a gagging sulfurous smell fills the air, and the sky, during this unusually hot summer, looks like a "dirty gauze bandage." As if the oppressive weather weren't enough, her moody daughter, Amy, who works alongside her at the mill, total· ing invoices, will hardly speak to her. Their only civil conversation is about the sudden disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl, Debby Kay Dorne, from her home. Tensions become even more calamitous when Amy attracts the attention of her math teacher, Mr. Robertson, while Isabelle's not-so-hidden desire for her married boss, Avery Clark, goes unnoticed. The burden of secretiveness, the strange mess of human behavior, and the sorrow of lost love are themes that pervade Amy and Isabelle. Stroufs closed-minded, small-town characters hide their desires from each other, and often from themselves. The luckiest ones learn that regret is the most damaging human emotion. After years of publishing stories in literary and commercial magazines, Strout debuts as a novelist with the impressive Amy and Isabelle. Her graceful , exacting prose and her examination of the intricacies of family life The Missouri Review · 197 and the workplace are reminiscent of already established small-town experts Jane Smiley, Jane Hamilton and Ann Tyler. (KS) Reviews by: Tina Hall, Elizabeth Oness, Jim Steck, Evelyn Somers, Kristen Harmon , Reeves Hamilton, Ryan Brooks, Speer Morgan, Brett Foster, Willoughby Johnson, Nancy Sherrod, Kris Somerville. ___ '-faUIVG ß??????????^-¡>o you hays rxousLe F/fi/'SH/A/G rt/ose /MPo/jTAt/r boo/cs pu/M up all ?p/? t?e House? youn/¿£û ?e £HCOURACíM£NT yo»A */o(\t be fhe Jj- fjriji person not to Éfin.'sh Pound* CuMO«,, r~ ? Bet you can't I Bet you Can't I ?'^??,?»^ only Ii J. na^i ffo you'd rv>fw»K ^·?:'^«eng to ft,,·, us a// f Golde«Bo^ /?- ìvoaU h«.l d»rf>e, .Had·«». " "À ·«¦


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