From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. As he demonstrated in the imaginative The Confessions of Max Tivoli
, Greer can spin a touching narrative based on an intriguing premise. Even a diligent reader will be surprised by the revelations twisting through this novel and will probably turn back to the beginning pages to find the oblique hints hidden in Greer's crystalline prose. In San Francisco in 1953, narrator Pearlie relates the circumstances of her marriage to Holland Cook, her childhood sweetheart. Pearlie's sacrifices for Holland begin when they are teenagers and continue when the two reunite a few years later, marry and have an adored son. The reappearance in Holland's life of his former boss and lover, Buzz Drumer, propels them into a triangular relationship of agonizing decisions. Greer expertly uses his setting as historical and cultural counterpoint to a story that hinges on racial and sexual issues and a climate of fear and repression. Though some readers may find it overly sentimental, this is a sensitive exploration of the secrets hidden even in intimate relationships, a poignant account of people helpless in the throes of passion and an affirmation of the strength of the human spirit.
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San Francisco in the 1950s may have seemed like a simpler time, but for African American wife and mother Pearlie Cook, it is anything but. Settled in the city’s Sunset District with her African American husband, Holland, she is wholly unprepared for the news imparted by a stranger who appears one Saturday morning at her door. He is Charles “Buzz” Drumer, a handsome white man who shared a room with Holland in a military hospital during World War II. (Holland had seen battle, Buzz had not. He was a conscientious objector, or, Pearlie wonders, was he just a coward?) Buzz’s astonishing admission (nope—not telling) and the request that follows rattle Pearlie’s peaceful world. She must make a heartbreaking decision, not only for herself, but for her polio-stricken son. Greer (The Confessions of Max Tivoli, 2004) sets this emotionally wrenching tale in a U.S. rife with strife—recovering from one war, mired in yet another, and grappling daily with the prickly issue of race. A haunting, thought-provoking novel about the liabilities of love. --Allison Block