LOVE & OBITS.
John Ed Bradley.
John Macrae/Henry Holt.
278 pages. $21.95. Just before Joe's temporary breakdown, he and his friend, Alfred Giddings, discuss the difficulty that writers have trying to find themselves. The French, Alfred comments, call it the search for The Marvelous.
Joseph Burke, 33-year-old writer for a prestigious Washington newspaper, has been searching for The Marvelous. And he has found disappointment: His wife, Naomi, has left him. Joe has had an injudicious love affair, for which he was demoted. Joe's father has been feigning paralysis since Joe's mother died, and he has fallen in love with his nurse. Now, Alfred, Joe's best friend, falls in love, and he contemplates suicide. Joe also falls in love, and he has recurring dreams about himself sitting in his father's wheelchair, paralyzed.
"Love & Obits," the third novel by former Washington Post reporter John Ed Bradley, is a delightful blend of John Cheever and John Updike. This is a sad, funny, sexy and sentimental story about a man who could have grown up. But he chooses not to. Young people looking for role models who overcame tremendous obstacles should find this book fascinating. Part of the series entitled "Women Who Dared," "Getting the Real Story" details the lives of two women who took on the old-boy network in newspapers in the late 1800s, and wrote provocative stories that brought about major changes in government, social welfare and civil rights policies.
The first half is devoted to Nellie Bly, the latter half to Ida B. Wells. Bly became internationally known while working for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World as an investigative journalist who surprised even her editors with her daring assignments. She went undercover inside an insane asylum, and prowled the back alleys of the city to report on the squalid living conditions of immigrant families.
Readers may be impressed to learn that Wells, a former slave, managed to support her five younger siblings after her parents died in a yellow fever epidemic, then went on to get a college education herself and became a nationally known newspaper columnist. But Wells is best known for her one-woman crusade through newspapers and other activities to reduce the number of lynchings of black men in the South early in this century.
@SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS.
562 pages. $22.
Whether it was trying out for an acting part or romance, Dolly Drake was destined to finish second-best to her sister, Eve. Dolly was resigned to her fate until two events happened -- she was given some incriminating information about Eve, and then her sister married Dolly's lover, Val. As an act of revenge, Dolly released the incriminating information and effectively destroyed Eve's Hollywood career.
"Such Devoted Sisters" then moves forward 12 years to the story of Eve's daughters, Annie and Laurel. To escape Val's advances, Annie takes her younger sister, Laurel, and flees to New York, where Dolly is running an upscale chocolate shop. Annie begins learning the business while Laurel struggles to find her identity. As fate would have it, both Laurel and Annie fall in love with the same man. Is history destined to repeat?
On the surface, Eileen Goudge's "Such Devoted Sisters" sounds like an overly melodramatic novel. But Ms. Goudge is able to infuse the story with believable characters and give the reader a fascinating glimpse into '50s Hollywood and '60s New York. It's a compelling and consistently surprising saga.