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"The Case of the Disappearing Ingenue ," Eleanor discovers that her husband is having an affair, and she reacts as a proper ingenue should, by ignoring the crisis altogether. There's a twist, however, because she channels her feelings ofbetrayal into amateur sleuthing. Rather than traU her cheating husband, she pursues the stable manager where her daughter takes riding lessons to discover if he is the socialite murderer some suspect him of being. The comical but potentiaUy dangerous escapade has Eleanor masquerading as a wealthy socialite in her effort to uncover clues. The ironic underlying message is that it may be more prudent to put your life at risk than to go against ingenue etiquette. EventuaUy she is able to assertively shuck aU disguises in "The Widow's Poet," in which a mature Eleanor, now a recently widowed poetry professor, embarks on a relationship with brooding , alternately cruel and sensitive Christian, one of her coUege students. In him she recognizes her "elusive, maimed twin," a part of herself she has long denied. Her obsessive pursuit of the tormented and sensual young man signifies that Eleanor is ready to openly embrace a dark, dangerous, but ultimately vital aspect of her own being. Such decisive and purposeful action foretells that future scripts will be her own, that her steps will now be guided by Eleanor herself . (LW) Orchard by Larry Watson Random House, 2003, 256 pp., $24.95 Larry Watson's Orchard is a moving, dramatic tale of a famous painter, his long-suffering wife, his model and her husband. At its core, the novel is a study of genius and the allowances made for it. Despite, or perhapsbecause of, his renown as a painter, Ned Weaver is a deeply flawed man. Philandering, cruel and petty, he irrevocably damages anyone who comes too close to him as he systematically sacrifices his humanity for the sake of his art. His wife, Harriet, has grown inured to his infidelities, even if she does not forgive them. Tensions reach a critical mass when Ned comes across Sonja House, the wife of a local orcharder . Sonja becomes Ned's muse, laying claim to a part of Ned that Harriet had always considered her exclusive territory. The novel depicts the emotional wreckage of the four lives disrupted. Ned Weaver occasionaUy paints landscapes, but his best works are studies of the human body. Similarly , Larry Watson never aUows his interest in Wisconsin's natural terrain to overpower the story. He evokes the cold, the crunch of frozen apples, the bite of the wind; but he never indulges for too long and remains focused on the players, not the sets. And just as Weaver gravitates toward the female form, Watson is at his best when he stays close to his female characters. His feeling for Harriet and Sonja informs his work with a tenderness that lifts the writing in the segments that concern them. When Watson lingers with Ned or Sonja's husband, Harry, however, we become aware of their limitations as characters: their flatness, their tired familiarity. Although thenarrative proceeds through their eyes, they remain prop movers—never surprising us, 202 · The Missouri Review never arguing for any of our sympathies . Perhaps it is inevitable that we should choose sides in what amounts to a gender battle, but Watson seems unwilling to trust us with even a glimpse of these men's true substance . If there are false steps—jarring flashforwards to an academic persona who examines the relationship between a Ned Weaver painting and a scene we have just witnessed, or a series of final chapters as brief and dismissive as the rolling credits of a Hollywood comedy—there are also evocations of true beauty and sadness. Orchard is that rarest and most valuable ofworks, a simple story skiUfuUy told. (MP) Book reviews by: David Abrams, Steve Street, Richard Sonnenmoser, Kris Somerville , Marta Ferguson, Jack Smith, Bern Mulvey, Jim Steck, Leslie Wootten, Michael Piafsky MR Lost Classic The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway The Feminist Press, 2000, 272 pp., $14.95 (paper) The Little Locksmith, a timeless personal narrative written by Katharine Butler Hathaway in the 1940s, is the story of a woman who despite deformity —she...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 202-203
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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