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Lucky Man, Lucky Woman (Norton Paperback Fiction)

by Jack Driscoll

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On the opening page of Jack Driscoll's 1998 debut novel, LUCKY MAN, LUCKY WOMAN, he gives you a pretty damn good hint of what this book is all about. His forty-ish protagonist, Perry Lafond, unable to sleep, is browsing through an old college textbook of his wife's, THE PORTABLE NIETZSCHE. A line from it that sticks with him is this: "When marrying, one should ask oneself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory ..."

Man, old Fred knew what he was talking about, ya know? Especially about that "transitory" stuff. After 47 years of marriage, I figure I can tell you that with a certain authority. And yet so many people, like Perry and Marcia (Benoit) Lafond, are in such a hurry to get through college (they met at U of M in Ann Arbor), then get married and start their 'real' lives, that they would put little stock in Nietzsche. At that age, late teens and early twenties, the sap is flowing strongly and everything seems so Urgent. And now, after nearly twenty years together, Perry and Marcia are having some troubles, some failures to communicate, as it were. At nearly forty, Marcia is desperate to be a mother, no matter what the cost. Perry is not quite so sure about being a father. He's got some 'issues' to resolve from his northern Michigan childhood: a little sister who died tragically and parents who never got over it.

And, in addition to Nietzsche's thoughts on marriage, Perry also has the thoughts of his older best friend, Wayne, a war-damaged Vietnam vet, who thinks the only common language between men and women is silence. Well, lately Perry and Marcia have been stuck in that ominous silence. Perry, a Connecticut parole and probation officer, has gotten a little too personally involved in the lives of his 'clients," and finds himself being attracted to other women. And then he has to fly back to Michigan for a family emergency, even as his marriage begins to go off the tracks.

Yes, this is a book about marriage and family in the 1990s. The locales of New London and Groton in Connecticut and Traverse City in Michigan are woven seamlessly into the story. (Driscoll is a kind of state treasure in the latter state, where he taught writing at Interlochen Arts Academy for many years.) But the characters here are just so damn good, so REAL, that I genuinely felt for them. And there is much here to "feel" - grief, sadness, tragedy. Driscoll is damn good at this writing thing. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Just READ it, okay? ( )
  TimBazzett | Dec 28, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393319458, Paperback)

For a man who's happily married, gainfully employed, and living in Mystic, Connecticut--the kind of town other people visit on vacation--Perry Lafond is feeling something less than lucky. He spends a suspicious amount of time with his Portable Nietzsche. He wakes screaming from nightmares about his kid sister's death. He dutifully doses his infertile wife, Marcia, with Pergonal each morning, but he's less and less sure a baby is what he wants. Then he meets Angela Knudson, the sad, pretty wife of one of his parolee "clients," and he finds himself drawn to her in a decidedly unprofessional way. His involvement with the Knudsons deepens until, inevitably, it takes a turn for disaster, jeopardizing his job as a probation officer, his marriage, and everything he holds dear. Rest assured, Perry does emerge from his long dark night of the soul, but nothing about his life will ever be the same again. Lucky Man, Lucky Woman, winner of Pushcart's Editor's Book Award, is the kind of book in which the smallest detail rings true, from Perry's volatile buddy Wayne to the emotional permafrost of his Michigan upbringing. "Love, unlived and unfelt for so long, becomes only another desperate gesture in the end, a final grimace at all the pain hoarded over a lifetime," Perry realizes, returning after his mother's stroke. With his first novel, Jack Driscoll has created a wise, complex, generous-spirited portrait of one marriage and the pressures that surround it. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:41 -0400)

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