Boaz follows her debut (A Richer Dust, 2008) with another finely wrought novel rooted in literary history.
Here it’s a member of the Beat Generation who provokes the narrator’s desire and dilemma. Frances, an attractive young woman who was formerly a magazine editor in New York, chronicles her sojourn in Paris with her precociously inquisitive seven-year-old daughter. Cathy has a lot to inquire about, because she knows more than she should about her mother’s relationship with Joseph Pasternak, an older poet for whom Frances has all but ended her marriage. (Boaz throws in plenty of Kerouac references, though the outdoorsy Pasternak more resembles Gary Snyder.) A series of flashbacks reveals what drove Frances to Paris. She meets Joseph at a wedding and, restless since childbirth put an end to sex with her dependable, boring husband, pursues and steals him away from his common-law wife, a better-known poet with the unfortunate name of Arlene Manhunter. However, all is not what it seems. Apparently the previously married Joseph hasn’t confined his affections to Frances, and he is now incarcerated in Colorado after the disappearance of Arlene, which may be a crime in which Frances may be complicit. What initially seems like a literary soap opera with traces of a mystery evolves into an acute character study in which Frances reveals essential truths about herself. “We want romance because it will change our lives and we want desperately to change our lives,” she reflects. But lives don’t always change for the better, and those changes can have a profound effect on others close to the lovers. Frances is so concerned with herself that she barely notices the impact on Cathy of being exiled to Paris with a mother in flight from a broken marriage, on the lam from the law—or perhaps both.
Satisfyingly subtle and rich.