A Place Apart

by Maureen Lennon
384 pages,
ISBN: 1550025449

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First Novels
by W.P. Kinsella

A Place Apart, by Maureen Lennon, set in the 1960s, is another in the long succession of first rate novels being published this season. Cathy is a teenager in crisis, but not the usual sex, drugs and rock and roll crisis. Cathy's mother is a murder waiting to happen. She is unhinged, living in a dream world where she is enthralled with Jackie Kennedy and her young family. In her own home, she is violently abusive toward Cathy. Her husband is cowed by her and does everything in his power to keep the peace, but does nothing to protect Cathy, though he knows what is going on. Her older brother also does not protect Cathy, although he himself has reached the point of being able to stop his mother from abusing him. Cathy is offered a chance to work as housekeeper at a rectory for the summer. She has an imaginary friend, but no real life ones, and she is afraid that she is mentally ill like her mother. The priests are a dour and emotionally desolate lot, not the kind of people she can confide in. Her brother, just before he escapes for good, gives Cathy advice, and her cowardly father makes a pathetic attempt to control his violent wife, but it fails and Cathy is left in an untenable position. One is drawn into Cathy's predicament, wanting again and again to reach into the pages and give her advice or sanctuary. Cathy is a very memorable character and the novel is one that stays in memory long after it is finished.

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