A few years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed Larry Watson’s brilliant novel, As Good As Gone. Set in 1963, it examines the eruption of violence in a small town in Montana and its effect on a middle-class family. (You can read my review at my blog Mirabile Dictu.)
In Watson’s smart new novel, The Lives of Edie Pritchard, the heroine Edie is haunted by the fear of violence. In small-town Montana in 1967, men constantly harass her. Edie is cool, dignified, and smart. She ignores the comments and halts the passes with the coolness and poker face of a cowgirl. (Actually, she works at a bank.) She also deals with harassment from her husband Frank’s identical twin brother Roy, who is said to be charming. I don’t see it.
The novel deals with three eras of Edie’s life: 1967-68, when Frank becomes pathologically jealous: Edie saves Roy’s life after two redneck brothers run Roy off the road because they objected to his buying their grandfather’s truck . In 1987, Edie has left town and is now the wife of Glen, another jealous husband. One day Roy calls her to say Frank is dying of cancer and would like to see her again.
As you can imagine, jealous husbands do not like their wives to visit ex-husbands. Glen grabs her wrist and sprains it, so the next day she takes off with her teenage daughter Jennifer, meaning to leave Glen forever. In her hometown, she visits her ex-husband, weak with cancer. Roy has become less obnoxious, now married to Edie’s old friend Carla. (There is no jealousy between women.) Unfortunately, Edie’s husband Glen tracks her down and things turn ugly. But in 2007, at age 60, Edie is single and serene.
Does history repeat itself? When her granddaughter stops to visit on a road trip from Spokane, Edie recognizes that the two vagabond brothers who accompany her are moody and violent.
The structure of the book is nearly perfect. There are three parts, and Three is the magic number with brothers: twins Frank and Roy,; the two brothers who ran Roy off the road in ’64; and now the two brothers with her granddaughter in 2007.
I have one criticism: there is too much objectification of women. Edie constantly goes to bed with abusive husbands, and we see, in my opinion, too much of her figure. Like Edie, I object to the word “tits.” And Edie’s granddaughter’s sundress straps fall off her shoulders while she eats pizza. Now how many times have I seen a woman’s sundress straps fall off while she is eating pizza? Zero.
Well, many great male writers, from Philip Roth to Jim Harrison, have had similar obsessions. Still, I liked Edie, who does take care of herself and has more control as the times change.
Overall, it is an absorbing summer read. Watson is an excellent read, and Edie is a strong woman.