Springs of Living Water

by Karen Lawrence,
256 pages,
ISBN: 0394568087

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Family Ties
by Sherie Posesorski

MIN MCCUNE is so fogged in by inertia and fear that she cannot think clearly enough to make any decisions about her future. Should she continue on with her book project of photographing hot spring,;, despite the reservations of her editor? Should she commit herself to her lover, Peter, who has asked her to marry him? What about the great fate she seeks? What is it and where will she find it? Unable to journey forward, Min is halfrelieved ,vben she receives a Summons from tier sister, Rini, to return to tier hometown of Wyandotte, Out. Min, equating love with loss of identity, and ordinary family life with mediocrity, has feared any commitment outside her dedication to her work. On her drive back to Wyandotte from California, Min re-examines her past, attempting to free herself from tier emotional paralysis and get on Witt) tier life, in Karen Lawrence`s luminous second novel, Springs of Living Water. Lawrence, who was horn in Windsor and now lives in San Diego, Won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award for her 1986 novel, The Life of Helen Alone. In that book, Lawrence`s poetic style appeared, at times, to he Simply decorative; but in Springs of Living Water, the imagery is organic and thematically integral, and is employed in a naturalistic and uncontrived manner. tier attention to detail and tier analogical eye are photographically realistic yet subtly evocative. The title is an apt description of the fluid chronology of the narration and also indicates the controlling metaphor of the novel. Min is fascinated by hot springs because of their natural grandeur and their symbolic importance. Hot springs are places, ;be believes, ",here "there is some promise, however evanescent, of transformation." At tile age of 20, Min left tier hometown, fleeing both tier family and the narrow, stifling fare she associated with life in the auto-industry-dominated city. She settled in Southern California, attracted by its social variability and looseness. There, she fashioned a self that she Could live with. She found a sense of vocation and identity as a photographer. Despite the fact that she is self sufficient and modestly successful in her career, she feels jeopardized by tier lover Peter`s proposal. Peter`s desire for "a shape, a definition of what the two of them [are]" is precisely what Min doesn`t want. She desires development, not definition. Peter`s characterization and his relationship with Min is the only less-than-satisfying aspect of the novel. Peter, an irritatingly calm and optimistic exemplar of California "New Age" philosophy, seems too bland and shallow for Min, and their relationship has none of the emotional intensity, vitality, or complexity that characterize Mins relationship to tier family. Her sister Rini`s comment "Dad is not himself` triggers Mins re-evaluation of her childhood perceptions and images of her parents and sister. As a child, she was mystified by the nature of the bond between her parents -- their marriage was not romantic, nor was it based or) similar interests or temperaments. Her mother, Rose, of Italian origin, was volatile and extroverted; her father, Alex, was emotionally reticent and reserved. As Min replays her memories of her mother`s harrowing death from breast cancer, she realizes how absolute was their love, need, and dependence on each other, and how threatened she feels by that kind of passion. Min is depressed by the changes that she sees in her father. Once as handsome as Gary Cooper and fastidious about his appearance, he is now feeble, badly dressed, and refuses treatment for the tumor that is pressing on his spinal nerves. Rini, whom Min always remembered as needy, snivelly, and defenceless, is now abrasive, sarcastic, and unapproachable. The difficult process of redefining their perceptions of each other and reconnecting begins when Rini accompanies Min on her trip to Europe. Min is freed when she acknowledges her love for her family`s "fragile, humbling, unsuspecting humanness" and by her recognition that great fates and faith also lie in the ordinariness and mysteriousness of family love and life. Springs of Living Water has the measured, contemplative pace of poetry, informed by emotional insight and wisdom

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