I seldom read novels. So full of emotion, navel peering, misery, no joy. But I had seen Dottie Weil’s latest, Love and Terror, at Heterotopia, the new bookstore on Woodburn in Walnut Hills several times, and was really drawn to it.
So, trusting that energy, I picked it up. It is interesting, fun, worth reading on a bunch of levels. And it’s full of Cincinnati locations and excursions.
This is three generations of a Cincinnati family, white, sort of upper middle class – in a Hyde Park / Clifton sort of way. With members not middle class, and various trips off the beaten and normal path. It is divided into 8 sections, with 75 chapters, many of them short. It begins with the wife in the middle generation leaping into a swimming pool topless – at a faculty party. Clearly mid-life crisis material, but that doesn’t carry into angst and drunkenness. A certain decorum is maintained throughout.
The chapters are each talked through by one of the family members. John and Betsy are the grandparents; Judith (and her sister Moira) and Eric (plus his sister Adrian), are the middle generation; David (striving wife Lydia, young daughter Phoebe) and William are the younger generation.
The first chapters are about Judith and Eric as hippies and revolutionaries during the late 60’s and early 70’s. Then they get back to degrees and children.
Each character has his and her own foibles, but in many ways the main focus is on Judith, the pool jumper, who has actually moved to Washington, D C to get a job and live on her own after 30 years as a wife and mom and Ph.D. professor. Eric has gotten a girlfriend, Nathalie. Then Eric gets a knee replacement, which turns into a heart attack, and heart surgery, during which he is seriously psychotic for quite some time. Mostly due to his meds. Meanwhile, David’s marriage is in trouble, and William is living in Over-the-Rhine, recovering from a multi-faceted addiction – pot and booze.
The characters, in their chapters, are working their way through all this – trying to stay together, to support each other, through various levels of being appalled, sorrowful, angry, hurt, depressed. Just like us out here in the regular world. With varying degrees of success and understanding.
The book is really the life story of many, many of us – especially here in Graeter’s country, with our terrific coffee shops, views, parks and experiences.
Definitely an excellent read. And it leaves you thinking, which is always a good thing.