Significant Others

Significant Others

by Marilyn Baron

A.J. Kirby (08/28/13): Marilyn Baron’s compelling new novel is a grandstanding celebration of love in all its forms. Here, there is enough love for everyone, no matter how old they are, no matter how much they’ve given up on discovering love, a special one, for themselves. The plotting is intricate, the characters are engaging, the dialogue sparkling and witty. Indeed, after completing the novel, my first impression was that the book had something of the Shakespearean romance about it. Here we have an old love lost and found; we have miraculous twists of fate; we have sinister forces trying to stop love – the Seniors Against Sin. We have confusion and mixed motivations – those carefully managed plot twists I mentioned above – but, as in the best Shakespearean romances, all is resolved at the end.

In essence, this is a love story saga which spans three generations of the same family. We meet the matriarch, Dee Dee Palladino, who, on the anniversary of her husband’s death discovers a ‘Jesus Tree’ (in the manner that some people see Moses in a slice of toast) in the bark of a tree in her retirement village in Florida. Honey, her “workaholic” daughter (though she won’t admit it) hears of Dee Dee’s discovery and travels out from Atlanta, worried her mom might be ‘losing it’. Honey’s marriage is on the rocks: she suspects her husband Marc of conducting a sordid affair with his temp, and indeed, discovers what she believes to be the photographic proof. Then, finally, there is Honey’s daughter, Hannah. Hannah is a 21-year-old student. She is in a relationship with a Mormon boy (though his Facebook relationship status doesn’t confirm this) with commitment issues.

The main players are ably supported by a colourful supporting cast including Dee Dee’s sister Helene; Dee Dee’s son (and Honey’s half-brother) Donny, a baseball star, and Daniel, a mysterious, tall, dark and handsome stranger whose presence snags with something in Dee Dee’s memory. Has she, perhaps, met Daniel before? Is he, maybe, some blast from the past who can help restore order to her life?

There are plenty of family problems to overcome within the narrative, not least of which is the fact that the family business – real estate – has been lined up to be sold. They are on a deadline. But Honey loves working for the real estate company. It is her life. Dee Dee, by contrast, wants to sell the company because she wants a life.

This is a subtly magnificent read. It is poignant at times – witness the war letters; funny – Honey’s sardonic wit allows the reader a unique perspective on events – I particularly enjoyed her discussions with her best friend Vicky, she of the nightmare boss who has her de-seeding grapes for her; discursive – it positions itself well to discuss issues such as work-life balance, for example; even postmodern at times – the story offers a twist on the fairy tale – at one point Honey rescues a frog from a swimming pool, and thinks about kissing it to awaken her handsome prince.

But the main idea it posits is the fact there is a significant other for all of us, no matter how old we are. As long as we give love a chance. As long as we don’t drown it – muffle it out with all the bleeps and ringtones of modern life (Baron is excellent on Honey’s addiction to her BlackBerry). As long as we are prepared to put ourselves on the line for it.
Rating: *****

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