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From the author of The White Bone, a piercing novel of passionate attachment and of the fear and freedom of letting go
Louise Kirk learns about love and loss at an early age. When she is nine years old, her former beauty queen mother disappears, leaving a note that reads only—and incorrectly—“Louise knows how to work the washing machine.” Soon after, the Richters and their adopted son, Abel, move in across the street. Louise’s immediate devotion to the exotic, motherly Mrs. Richter is quickly transferred to her nature-loving, precociously intelligent son.
From this childhood friendship evolves a love that will bind Louise and Abel forever. Though Abel moves away, Louise’s attachment becomes ever more fixed as she grows up. Separations are followed by reunions, but with every turn of their fractured relationship, Louise discovers that Abel cannot love her as fiercely and exclusively as she loves him. Only when she faces another great loss is Louise finally forced to confront the costs of abandoning herself to another.
Skillfully interweaving the stories of Louise and Abel at different ages, Barbara Gowdy produces a powerful exploration of love’s many incarnations: a motherless daughter who yearns to be adopted, a husband eternally linked to a wife who has left him, a girl bewitched by the boy next door, a woman who refuses to let go of a magnetic, elusive man. Haunting and profound, The Romantic is a story about love in all its exquisite variations.
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Barbara Gowdy is the author of six previous books, including The White Bone (Picador 0-312-26412-7), Mister Sandman, and We So Seldom Look on Love. Recipient of the prestigious Marian Engel Award, she lives in Toronto, Ontario.
From The Romantic:
I fall in love with Mrs. Richter immediately, Abel the following summer. I know how unlikely it sounds, a ten-year-old girl falling in love at all, let alone with a middle-age woman. But to say I become infatuated doesn’t describe the gravity and voluptuousness of my feelings. I trail after her to the grocery store and touch the grapefruits she has fondled. I gaze at her flannel nightgown billowing on the clothesline and am uplifted, as if by music. Under the pretext of welcoming her to the subdivision or asking if she gives piano lessons, asking if she heard about the white-elephant sale at church—any excuse—I write letters advertising my availability and qualifications as a daughter. “Lend a Helping Hand!” I write on the back of the envelopes, as if this were my motto. Down the margins I draw pictures of a girl doing the dishes, scrubbing the floor, dusting.
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