One woman’s dream of escape from domestic unhappiness opens up a world of erotic fantasy and danger in this sensuous, suspenseful second novel by Amy Boaz. A wife and mother estranged from her life back in the suburbs of America, Frances has fled to Paris with her mischievous young daughter, Cathy, where they visit museums, sit in cafés, and rest uneasily incognito. Yet gradually Frances learns they are being followed as events from her recent past catch up with them: Frances’s former lover, a poet in Boulder, Colorado, has been jailed as a suspect in the disappearance of his common-law wife, and Frances, too, falls under suspicion.
In riveting flashbacks, Frances, who teaches writing and possesses “aspirations,” has met the poet Joseph Pasternak at a wedding in Denver. A teacher of Sanskrit poetry, bearded and seductive, Joseph is a kind of troubadour in the tradition of Indian nomadic seekers, whose translations from the Sanskrit move Frances with their gorgeous, vivid simplicity. Achingly unhappy in her conventional marriage to a chilly engineer, Frances embarks on an affair with Joseph, oblivious to the wound the lovers are inflicting on Joseph’s longtime partner, Arlene Manhunter, a half-Native American poet of legendary Beat status who does not take Joseph’s infidelity lightly. Indeed, her vengeful wrath will pursue Frances and her daughter all the way to Paris and beyond.
In a delicately probing, interior-driven first-person narrative, Beat develops Frances’s awakening consciousness. Is her lover Joseph for real or a seduction artist? Does Frances’s devotion to the wellbeing of her daughter--an often perilous task in Paris--exclude her from personal fulfillment and pleasure? And when love goes wrong--of husband, child, lover, self--what price does she have to pay? At turns dreamy and disembodied as poetry, erratic as memory, and exciting as a mystery, Beat explores the slippery terrain of passion and betrayal.
Amy Boaz is the author of A Richer Dust, heralded as a grade-A “pick” by Entertainment Weekly and winner of the Washington Irving award. Her short fiction has appeared in the Virgin Fiction anthology, sponsored by Salon.com. She lives in New York.