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Beloved Stranger Hardcover – April 3, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This rich, compelling novel is a domestic tragicomedy in which the details are as crucial as in a mystery story. During 50 years of married life in the same Dublin neighborhood, Dick Butler has provided for his wife, Lily. Despite Dick's occasional instances of "madness," Lily has always been deeply devoted to him, so she can barely bring herself to ask about the large checks for cash he's suddenly writing when he still considers central heating in their home too expensive. Their only daughter, Ruth, an architect, is single by choice and an ardent feminist who encourages her mother to stop playing a submissive role. When Lily awakens one night to find Dick under the bed--armed with a shotgun and convinced he has an intruder in his sights--she is not unduly alarmed; she rationalizes that it was probably only a dream. But after Dick's behavior becomes more bizarre, Ruth consults a young professor of psychiatry, Tim Walcott, and he persuades Dick to submit to tests that confirm his emotional distress as bipolar disorder. The action balances the farcical (when Dick's at home, he sells their new mattress for more than he paid for it) and the pathetic (when he's hospitalized, Lily is so lonely she makes a pet out of a mouse). Ruth, meanwhile, tries to comfort her mother and sort out her feelings for Walcott, who befriends both women. There's a suspenseful sequence of crises as Dick's condition, depicted with frankness and humor, deteriorates into full-blown manic depression, and the story turns on Lily's loving vigil. As in John Bayley's Elegy for Iris, Boylan's scrutiny of the intimate details and travails of an enduring marriage gives depth and vitality to an engrossing story, the basis for which Boylan (Home Rule) found in her own father's mental illness. (Apr. 1)Forecast: Despite its frank depiction of a syndrome that afflicts the elderly, this novel is a natural for handselling, a task made easier because of Boylan's ability to infuse gallows humor into her very engaging narrative. If booksellers get behind this title, it should thrive.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

After 50 years of marriage, Lily Butler was content to be submissive to her husband, Dick, allowing him to lead their lives and deferring to his judgment. But when Lily wakes up in the middle of the night to find Dick under the bed with a shotgun, convinced there's an intruder in their house, Lily's future doesn't seem so certain. The incident marks the beginning of Dick's illness as he plunges into manic depression. Pushed by their daughter, Ruth, Lily commits Dick to a mental institution. Now Lily must learn how to live alone, think for herself, and discover who she is without a husband. However, she becomes overwhelmed with the newfound freedom and attempts suicide. Although the story has promise, Boylan tries too hard to explore what it means to be a wife. It's obvious that Ruth, the rebellious, single daughter, is Lily's complete opposite, and Boylan offers her up as the opposing view of marriage to Lily's. However, when not trying to make deep social statements, Boylan tells a touching story of a woman who discovers life after marriage. Carolyn Kubisz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582430969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582430966
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,510,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jill Clardy TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Lily and Dick Butler have been married nearly 50 years, living for most of those years near Dublin, in a home in which Dick refuses to pay for central heating. But, lately several large sums of money have disappeared from their checking account, and Dick is unable or unwilling to account for them. He seems at times docile, but still rules his roost with an iron hand and has never become accustomed to being a useless old retired man. Lily is a victim of her times, the self-effacing woman with no aspirations other than homemaker. Ruth, their 40 year old daughter, is a single architect and ardent feminist who encourages Lily to exert her will and try to be less dependent on Dick.
After finding Dick under the bed with a gun one night, Lily reluctantly concedes to Ruth's urging to have him tested by a psychiatrist, who pronounces him manic-depressive. He is sent to a psychiatric hospital where he vacillates between a drug induced torpor and manic, dangerous, destructive outbursts. Rather than realizing how much better off she is without him, Lily becomes so lonely and depressed that she actually adopts a mouse as her pet.
Ruth, the classic sandwich generation, is torn between getting on with her life, trying to appease her demanding father, and trying to keep her mother from sinking further into her own depression.
The book provides some poignant, revealing insights into what makes a 50-year marriage work. Lily said "the truth is, we accommodated each other. Maybe I just accommodated him. We understood each other's weaknesses." The book is a sad, revealing, sometimes funny commentary on the most enduring and intimate of human relationships.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen J. on July 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the story of a married couple who for fifty years
shared their life with each other.
Lily,the wife,has always been the type of woman with no
aspirations other than to be a good wife and mother(noble
in itself,if you are with the right man.)
Dick,her husband was the provider and worked outside the
home.He was not happy when Lily became pregnant,with
their one child.He also refuses over the years to put
central heating in their home.You know the type.
When Dick becomes really odd over some missing money,
Lily calls upon her unmarried daughter,Ruth,to help
rectify the situation.
Although Ruth is a forty year old woman,and a feminist
too,she does not see her parents clearly.
It is almost like they are consciously or unconsciously,
sending her the message"we need you to survive."
Ruth becomes entangled in the middle of their lives.
She has always liked her Dad,and hasn't seen any of his
They all go to see a charming,unorthodox, Dr. Walcott,who
tells them what he sees.There is some real humor in this
semi-sad tale.There is also mystery and action.
Ah,read the book,there is much in it that speaks to
these modern times of caretaking,and Family.
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