Roxie & Fred
In this novel, we follow the separate paths of Roxie and Fred to the point where those paths intersect and beyond. Roxie, now elderly, in her youth, abandoned by her upper-class background and family to pursue a life of service in Zimbabwe. Similarly, Fred, a successful artist, seemed to be settling into a comfortable middle age when without apparent provocation he leaves his adored and adoring wife. Both characters clearly feel dissatisfied and inauthentic in the lives they have been given or worked hard for, but, unlike most of us, seek to do something about it.
Both Roxie and Fred are compelling characters. Although they seem very different on the surface—different genders, social classes, ages—they are alike in important ways. Their similarity is their restlessness and dissatisfaction with their circumstances. Fred was born into relative disadvantage, a working-class family with an abusive father, a background he has spent his life working to get away from. Less understandable is Roxie, who throws away her life of privilege and leaves her family to move to an underdeveloped country, with threats to her health and safety every day. They are not particularly likeable characters—they both abandon loved ones in a search for authenticity. As with most such searches, Roxie and Fred are only partially successful and somewhat dissatisfied with their new lives. Roxie wants to reconnect with the daughter she chose to abandon, and predictably, the daughter will have nothing to do with her. Fred arrives at a certain grudging respect for his hated father. Minor characters also go through transformations: Fred’s children swap roles as “The Responsible One” and “The Irresponsible One.” The only real concern with the book is the lack of dramatic moments—the illness that takes Roxie’s life, for example, is never addressed directly in the sense we never see her come out and confide in Fred that she is sick. She slowly fades as her luscious garden also goes fallow with autumn. But this may be thematic—there are few “big moments” that demarcate stages in our lives—we just gradually transform from one identity to another, without advance plan.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Page Count||318 pages|
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