Kathryn Larrabee,
An Everyday Savior
(Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002)

Kathryn Larrabee's debut novel An Everyday Savior reveals the hand of an already seasoned writer with its introspective and thoughtful tale about how "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

Harley Cookson is an ordinary man, a lineman for a phone company in upstate New York. His marriage to Sonia, a Russian woman, is only six months old, but when his mother breaks her leg, he brings her into his home to keep her from going into a nursing home. On the way to get her, he and his Sonia, encounter a stray dog, and it is this simple and random encounter that sends Harley on a curious internal odyssey.

The dog belongs to a woman named Lynette, Harley's high school girlfriend. Married now to another classmate, she seems worn down, and Harley suspects that her husband is abusive. When her husband dies suddenly while ice fishing with Lynette and suspicions start to be whispered, Harley finds an uncontrollable urge to save and help her, even though it intrudes on the life he's trying to build with Sonia and rebuild with his mother. At the heart of the novel, however, is whether Harley is the savior or whether he needs to be saved -- perhaps both.

Harley narrates the story in first-person present tense for the current narrative and in first-person past tense when relating his history with Lynette and with his family. The device works very well, as the reader anticipates what might happen based on his past. In essence, the reader grows with Harley as the novel progresses toward its resolution.

Larrabee's writing is textured and her language is rich in precise homely details and nuances. The pace is slow, but doesn't drag; this is a book to be savored. Best of all are the characters, as real as the people you meet outside your door. They are ordinary in some ways, but like anyone, they have distinguishing traits which bring them to life.

An Everyday Savior is not an everyday novel, and Kathryn Larrabee is not an everyday novelist. I look forward to more from her.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 24 August 2002

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