Good Lovers Are Dead Lovers

Charley Bland, as his father describes him, would have been a prodigal son except he never had the gumption to leave home. Still, he has the charm most lost souls have, and for the widowed, 35-year-old narrator of Mary Lee Settle's eleventh novel, returned home to West Virginia from a Bohemian life in Europe, this most eligible and most ineligible of bachelors becomes her reason to stay.

Living on what she can earn writing or tutoring French, hand to mouth in a part of the world and an era (late 50's-early 60's) in which money, heaven forbid poverty, cannot be discussed, she spends her time and energy and last bit of youth on this 40-plus bachelor who cannot make a man of himself "[P]rofane love," she says, "is a place, an Eden, a prison. Within it, people glow, colors are bright, you believe everything you have always wanted to believe. It is a place of trust, of guilelessness and deep iridescent illusion. I think the snake that seduced Eve was not temptation but guile, for it was the one quality that could destroy her."

The narrator is a foreigner now in her own hometown even to the extent that she is always explaining to the reader, her confessor, the Southernisms in what was once, surely, her own English. At first an object of interest, she holds on to the favorite Charley Bland longer than is acceptable, and is dropped with that crushing Southern politeness that is without malice and...

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