Monday, October 28, 2013

RIVEN ROCK by T.C. Boyle

Eddie O'Kane has a drinking problem and has been known to strike a woman.  His employer, Stanley McCormick, youngest son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper, also has a problem with women and hasn't actually seen one in twenty years—not since he attacked a perfect stranger on a train.  This book follows the lives of both men during the course of their association while Stanley is basically incarcerated at a mansion originally built for his sister, who is also mentally ill.  Stanley's behavior runs the gamut from catatonic to unbridled rage.  Over the years, his psychiatric treatment is virtually useless, serving basically as a research instrument for his physicians, until finally a doctor comes along who employs Freud's "talking cure," with mixed results.  Meanwhile, Stanley's long-suffering wife Katherine visits every year but can see Stanley only by clandestinely watching him through binoculars from the mansion grounds.  According to Boyle, she never stops loving Stanley, more for what he could have been than what he actually was, and he was never a husband in the physical sense.  I identified most strongly with Katherine, not only because she's a strong female character, but also because her story is really the most tragic.  However, she doesn't allow her husband's affliction to deter her from finding her own fulfillment through feminist causes such as voting rights and birth control, and fortunately she has the financial resources to pursue these interests.  Boyle never disappoints, and this historical fiction piece is no exception.  At almost 500 pages, though, it requires a bit of a time commitment.


Elizabeth said...

I LOVE T. C. Boyle.

Did you read his book, Tortilla Curtain? It was good.

We seem to read similar books. :)

PattisPages said...

I loved TORTILLA CURTAIN. It's on my blog, too. DROP CITY was the first of his that I read, and after that I was hooked.