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B O O K REVIEW S Although Miller is more sympathetic in his treatment of Pinchot than many scholars and could have explored more directly the problematic ways in which his views have surfaced recently, that is perhaps the task of another book. Here, Miller remains focused on providing readers with a clearer picture of the past and, in this effort, offers a significant contribution to our understanding. My M other’s Lovers. By Joy Passanante. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2002. 220 pages, $17.00. Reviewed by Jane Varley Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio It seems an unlikely scenario, yet somehow familiar: long-haired outcasts living in a mountain town, coming and going from a purple house with an old bus parked out back, the enduring emblem of their journey to the West. How many remote western communities are accented with symbols of dubious ide­ alism and culture clash? Joy Passanante’s novel draws us into this life, as told from the point of view of Lake Rose Davis, daughter of former hippies who had moved to northern Idaho in the name of the countercultural movement of the 1960s. Exposition is handled cleverly, the narrative sometimes switching into an intimate oral mode with various characters’ histories embedded in Lake’s recollections of her own experience. But it is Lake’s voice that provides the real story, the compelling poetry of this novel that takes us back into her life and the fractured emotional bond with her mother. We come to know Lake as a sensitive and cynical girl who becomes aware of her family’s place in the community. “Each day I rode the bus I worried more and more that the children would see into our house from the road,” Lake says of her house in Wilders Ferry, Idaho (12). We gradually feel her own need to look objectively into that house and to invite us to look in as well. There can be no objectivity though when the backward glances are into one’s family, es­ pecially a family as interesting as Lake’s. Her father escapes into the physical textures and varied contexts of the books he sells, and her mother, Mimi, is a painter, a colorful mix of vulnerability and passionate need. Mimi’s seductions and betrayals shift like a kaleidoscope under Lake’s gaze and become the object of scrutiny as Lake grows into her own burgeoning desires. Lake retells the family history and the life they make in Idaho with a grow­ ing awareness of her mother’s complex relationships—with family friends Jillian and Dyl, with a young blond logger, and with a mixed-race hairdresser named Graceanne. When her mother finally achieves her long-term goal of showing her paintings in a gallery, paintings based on a powerful and extraordinary vision of womanhood, Lake and her family begin a movement toward ruinous events that will change things forever. I am leaving certain events unexplained in the interest of suspense, and the suspense in this novel is electrifying. Lake ends up in St. Louis with her 110 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 5 mother’s family, a quiet refuge holding the whispers of Mimi’s early life and its traditional Italian and Jewish roots. Coming into womanhood, Lake moves in with her Aunt DeeDee, who has been a friend to her since girlhood. Lake has trouble understanding her own responses as she capriciously acts out the rituals of becoming a woman, compelled, more than she knows, by the powerful sexuality that made her mother’s life so complicated. The act of falling in love for Lake is the passage to mourning her past and trying to come to terms with all she has lost. Echoing the traditions of western American literature, Passanante’s novel shows how landscape suggests a negotiation between vast remote beauty and those who find themselves there, dealing with isolation and the forces of passion and will. Lake’s answers are not easy— the beauty of the West is a part of her...


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pp. 109-110
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