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Laura Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Edition edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671567748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671567743
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,381,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Watson at his best (Montana 1948) captures smalltown life with searing acuity and vigorous heart, though other efforts (White Crosses) don't achieve the intensity or dramatic precision this writer is capable of. His sixth book is a portrait of one man's obsession with a woman he barely knows, and it pairs the author's signature sharp dialogue and gorgeous, piquant language with an unfortunate lapse in his characterizations. During the summer of 1955, 11-year-old Paul Finley awakens to find a beautiful but drunken woman standing in his bedroom. Laura Coe Pettit, a 22-year-old poet on the verge of tremendous success, who has come to Paul's summer home in Vermont for a party with the intention of seducing his father, winds up in Paul's room to gather her wits. The two share a brief conversation that captures the boy's heart. Over the next three decades, Paul has only a handful of encounters with Laura, but he is unable to exorcise her from his thoughts. Revealed from Paul's perspective as he grows older and wiser, the story demonstrates the protagonist's role in life as an observer. He focuses his sights on the volatile, hot-and-cold Laura with extraordinary persistence, much to the detriment of his other relationships. Though Watson takes advantage of the 30-year trajectory in his narrative to offer insight into Paul's psyche by way of historical markers (one of Paul's encounters with Laura is at a Vietnam War protest), the author fails to contextualize his protagonist within the surrounding events of the era. Watson's talents are evident in his mastery of language and plot, but he neglects the vibrant secondary characters for his overwrought evocation of Paul's single-minded passion. Eventually, the reader experiences Paul not as a person, but merely a vehicle for his obsession, and much of the novel's energy sinks under that weight. 12-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Watson's previous novels, including Montana 1948 (1993), have dealt mainly with quiet desperation in the small towns of the West. Here the setting moves to the East and Midwest, and the desperation is much more verbal. The story of Paul Finley, son of a charismatic Boston book editor, begins in the 1950s, when 11-year-old Paul meets 22-year-old poet Laura Coe Pettit, his father's lover. We follow Paul through childhood and adulthood, as his parents divorce, his father dies, and he marries. Throughout it all, though, it is his obsession with Laura that drives his inner life. Watching that obsession consume Paul's soul is an agonizing process, painful yet hypnotic. When he finally attempts to act on his longing for Laura, to say yes to life for the first time, we are as embarrassed as we are inspired. Watson never takes the easy way out: Paul is both a romantic hero (a Freudian's Heathcliff) and a silly fool. The great strength of this uncompromising novel is the way Watson portrays coming-of-age as a decidedly mixed blessing. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the summer of 1955 in Vermont, eleven-year old Paul Finley meets Laura Coe Petit for the first time when she escapes for a breather and a smoke from the party hosted by his parents. Laura, a twenty-two year old rising poet, was smoking a cigarette outside Paul's bedroom window when she inadvertently woke him up. They briefly talk and for the rest of his life, Paul knows that Laura is the mark that he compares other people, especially women, and his own sense of essence to.

Over the next thirty plus years, Paul and Laura have occasional brief encounters that further destroy any possible relationships the younger man may foster. Instead Paul remains obsessed with the woman he always knew he could never have. From the first time they met when he was a child she planned to seduce his father at that New England party.

LAURA is a an entertaining cogitation on how far obsession can twist a person. The insightful story line is well written (as expected from Larry Watson), especially the background historical events that serve as a bigger stage for the meetings between Paul and Laura. The secondary cast provides reflection, impetus, and depth although Mr. Watson never showcases them as he concentrates on Paul's psyche. The lead protagonist's obsession turns him into something that seems more like a stalker and quixotically, a more humane individual. Mr. Watson shows why he is an award-winning author with this compassionate character study.

Harriet Klausner
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laurie Gatlin on June 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What I've always liked about Larry Watson's books was the terse writing, the feel of the west, and the complete immersion into the world of masculinity, which is a foreign land for me. So I was a bit afraid of how I would feel about this book, which looked to me to be leaning towards a mingling of feminine outlook with what I had come to appreciate most about Watson's writing, and I feared that it would dilute my awe for his work.
This book was amazing. Paul spends a lifetime with an obsession with Laura, and like all obsessions, finds it rooted in complete mystery over who she really is, and what it is about her that so captivates him. Watson never let me down, he remained steadfast to the view of the world seen through eyes of men, which remains for me as enigmatic as Laura does for Paul. He gives me a glimpse into a world I've never lived, that of a boy who grows into a man, and anchors it with touches of a world I know firsthand and yet still evades complete understanding, that shadow world of relationships between men and women.
The relationship between Paul and Laura haunts both of them throughout their lives. Like most people, I too have had relationships that I will ponder over during late sleepless nights. I think Larry Watson did a remarkable job in capturing the combination of anticipation and memory that keeps us awake because of our own obsessions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ray Marshall on July 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
OK, so you read the other reviews. Larry Watson moves from the West to a story that begins in New Hampshire. Laura is a tour of growing up of a young man from 1950's onward. Paul is at once romantic and pragmatic. He is the unsatisfied, incomplete without his dream. A life of shoulds and shouldn'ts. The conventional vrs. the forbidden. I am torn between wanting Watson to write more about the plains of Montana and wanting him to write another book like this. In many ways, he has moved from a regional writer in the same manner as when John Updike began writing about New England instead of his boyhood home in Pennsylvania. Paul Finley came of age in the book, but so did Larry Watson. I literally could not put the book down. Watson's talent for storytelling is at his best. Laura is the poet but Watson uses very poetic language in the book. The flow and continuity of the book is excellent.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed Larry Watson's novels and find he does an excellent job at telling a story about flawed people with flawed lives (aren't we all?). Paul, at the tender age of 11, falls hopelessly in LOVE with the much older Laura, an unconventionally pretty, and soemwhat well known poet, who has plenty of hangups of her own. Paul spends his entire life longing for Laura -- so much so that he really just goes through the motions of living without much feeling or direction. The only thing he ever seems pationate about is his intermittent meetings with his obsession -- Laura.
The novel almost reminded me of Forest Gump at times, with vignettes of his meetings with Laura and how he continues to long for her after their departures. I could hardly put the book down once I started to see where Paul's lack of direction led him and where he'd meet Laura next.
The stength of the book is in the characterization of Paul AND the characters he didn't build. We get a glimpse of what his father, mother, and sister are like -- but only through Paul's eyes. They seem peripheral to the novel, and to Paul for that matter. And we build our picture of Laura through Paul's eyes, sometimes just from news clips and articles he reads. But we can understand these characters simply from their behavior and Paul's descriptions of them.
If you have read Laura and like it, as I did, I would also recommend Larry's Party by Carol Shields.
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More About the Author

Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was educated in its public schools. Larry married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967. He received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his PhD from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 2004) and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Larry Watson is the author of the novels IN A DARK TIME; MONTANA 1948; WHITE CROSSES; LAURA; ORCHARD; SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON; and AMERICAN BOY; the fiction collection JUSTICE; and the chapbook of poetry LEAVING DAKOTA. Watson's fiction has been published in ten foreign editions, and has received prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, New York Public Library, Wisconsin Library Association, Critics' Choice, and The High Plains Book Award. MONTANA 1948 was nominated for the first IMPAC Dublin international literary prize. The movie rights to MONTANA 1948 and JUSTICE have been sold to Echo Lake Productions and WHITE CROSSES and ORCHARD have been optioned for film.

He has published short stories and poems in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, North American Review, Mississippi Review, and other journals and quarterlies. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and other periodicals. His work has also been anthologized in Essays for Contemporary Culture, Imagining Home, Off the Beaten Path, Baseball and the Game of Life, The Most Wonderful Books, These United States, Writing America, and West of 98.

Watson taught writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin/​Stevens Point for 25 years before joining the faculty at Marquette University in 2003 as a Visiting Professor. He has also taught and participated in writers conferences in Colorado, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, St. Malo and Caen, France.

Larry's latest novel, AMERICAN BOY, was published by Milkweed Editions in 2011. He and Susan live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They have two daughters, Elly and Amy, and two grandchildren, Theodore and Abigail.

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