September 1, 2010

USA: 'You Lost Me There' pieces together lost marriage

CHICAGO, Illinois / Daily Herald /  Associated Press / September 1, 2010


There's a saying that there are three sides to every story:
Yours, mine and the truth.
Rosecrans Baldwin's new novel could be an illustration of that idea.

"You Lost Me There"
Riverhead Books
by Rosecrans Baldwin

"You Lost Me There" is the story of Victor Aaron, a scientist at a research facility in Maine who is studying Alzheimer's disease. His late wife, Sara (a playwright turned Hollywood screenwriter), died three years earlier in a car accident.

On the surface, life has gone on for Victor. He works, swims for exercise and is dating Regina, a 25-year-old Ph.D. student with a passion for burlesque dancing and vintage fashion.

Readers soon realize that Victor hasn't finished grieving for Sara -- and that he has much to learn about their marriage.

The first sign is when Sara's elderly aunt Betsy recalls something from Sara's past that Victor had misunderstood. On the night they met, Sara confessed to Victor that when she was a teenager, she punched her mother in a fit of anger and then tried to run away. The way Victor heard it, Sara's mother punched her.

He then finds index cards that Sara wrote about their relationship. She had written them for an assignment from a couples therapist they had briefly consulted. The therapist had asked them to detail five changes in the direction of their marriage.

Sara wrote 54 cards. In them, Victor reads of instances he can barely recall, and problems he didn't realize existed.

One of her cards says: "Our marriage was a book written by authors in separate houses."

Victor came up with only one card, which he wrote after Sara's death: "My marriage went in a single direction, and then it stopped."

These two contrasting -- yet telling -- declarations could easily sum up "You Lost Me There." Yet the narrative continues as Victor unravels.

Like Victor's disjointed memories, the novel isn't consistently interesting. The best parts are when Sara returns through Victor's memories or her index cards. (Too bad there are only 54 of them.)

Victor interacts with various women in his life, including aunt Betsy, Regina and a colleague named Lucy. He invites his 22-year-old goddaughter, Cornelia, to spend the summer with him in Maine.

Yet despite the different connections he's made, Victor feels detached to everyone around him. As he becomes increasingly withdrawn and desperate, the book begins to lose momentum. It isn't until Victor takes a hiatus from work that readers begin to see an end to his suffering.

Copyright © 2010 Paddock Publications, Inc.