Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Down Under by Sonia Taitz is a farcical look at serious romance, when true love arrives--the second time around.

DOWN UNDER by Sonia Taitz (McWitty Press, Nov.11) is a farcical look at serious romance. Jude Pincus is not a heroine for the faint-hearted middle-ager. She's the Joan of Arc of bustiers and stilettos, a martyr for true love. Sadly, the man of her dreams, and the man who shares her bed, are equally missing from her life.  Judy teaches creative writing part-time and has two twin teen-aged sons, so she's not exactly idle but there is time on her hands.

She's trying to figure out how she arrived at this place in her life, where she's not essential to those she cares about.  Without that connection, she thinks, what is she but a pathetic creature alone with her worries?  Among these is her husband, busy rebuilding his fortunes with the perfect tubular pasta. His import business allows him to gallivant all over Italy with brief sojourns at home. Then there's her twins The popular outgoing son is in boarding school, while his studious brother at home never leaves his room.  Jude worries about his isolation, strange eating habits and whether he really is on the autism scale. .

Unlike her husband, Jude doesn't mind  coming down in the world. Their cottage boasts the relief of a blue plastic pool. As the story begins, she floats, musing like a female Prufrock, about what lies ahead in a life that no longer suits her, and what might have been. Her early life had great promise. She was a good student and daughter. Yet her very sense of duty had led to her greatest loss, a love she still treasures--Jude's exalted "what might have been."

DOWN UNDER intersperses Jude's present with her youth, age 15, when Collum Whitsun, a beautiful, wounded boy, became her forever love. Like Romeo and Juliet they were studying in English, she and Collum were from feuding families. His father was of an extreme Christian faith, who believed in rigor--beatings of his sons. Jude's father was a holocaust survivor, who believed Jude owed it to the martyred to marry within her faith. While neither Jude or Collum had strong beliefs, they both suffered fathers of inflexible belief and mothers, whose primary faith was to go along with their spouses. One traumatic night, all was lost and Collum suddenly disappeared.

Jude's world also includes her "perfect" neighbor Heidi, tidy and attractive, in her person and her house, who's created a successful home business based on her tasty cuisine of pure food. What's not perfect about Heidi is her husband, who quit his job, and her hostile, mess of a daughter. Jude, who is her writing teacher, is well aware that Heidi's daughter wants her dead. While she's alarmed, she also is weary of Heidi's understated disapproval of her sloppiness, lack of a "life," complaints about her husband, and her weird son. Jude senses that Heidi's "friendship" may be rooted in her feelings of superiority.

In a kind of inspired desperation, akin to a device in a Moliere farces, Jude opens a FB account and searches for Collum under his real name, not his movie star one. When his crazy father moved the family to an isolated Aussie station, Collum burnished his tan and musculature. With his light blonde hair, deep blue eyes with yellow flecks,Collum rose to his destiny as an international film star. Now divorced from his wife, hiding from his agent, Column is also looking for his Juliet. He immediately responds to Jude's message. But still a dutiful wife, she retreats, after declaring love. And to win her, her the actor resorts to disguise.

A cowboy, named Shy, with a falling moutache shows up at a riding camp and strikes up a friendship with Jude's son. Later, a Hasidic Rabbi shows up at her house. At first put off by the Yiddish speaking, cliche Judaism of the man, Jude finds herself moved by long-forgotten prayers, that remind her of her deceased father.As the Rabbi continues to visit, Jude's bizarrely attracted to him.

Eventually, Jude and Collum find each other. All the thwarted passion of their youth
erupts in white cloth, in the pool, and in the bedroom, Like any bedroom farce, they are caught by her son, yet continue with zest in seedy motels, then with less passion in better hotels. Fulfillment isn't all it's cracked up to be and in this novel proves to be something else entirely.

This is a book that you keep reading, turning the pages, thinking, is that "really" going to happen?  A good glass of wine and suspended disbelief are all you need for a good time.