Alan Mackenzie is in excruciating pain. His back problems are
getting worse and worse, and there seems to be nothing any
treatment can do about it. He is grumpy and depressed and having a
hard time getting any work done. Alan's wife Jane is in pain too.
But her pain is emotional, not physical. In addition to her work,
she has been caring for Alan, a less than gracious patient. He is
sullen and demanding, and their marriage is feeling strained and
This is the scene Alison Lurie sets in her new novel, TRUTH AND
CONSEQUENCES. And now into Alan and Jane's troubled relationship
comes another couple to really shake things up. The famous and
famously beautiful Delia Delaney is a visiting fellow at the
university where both Alan and Jane work, and the three of them
will be working in close proximity. Before Jane meets Delia, she
meets her put-upon husband, Henry Hull, who it turns out is caring
for Delia during her debilitating migraines much as Jane cares for
Alan. So Delia and Henry's marriage parallels Alan and Jane's, and
it is not long before the two caregivers and their two care-getters
are drawn to each other.
While Jane tries to resist Henry's charm and persuasion, out of
loyalty to Alan, Alan plunges head over heels into an odd romance
with Delia. In describing the three relationships and the often
absurd situation, Lurie blends realism, romance and humor. She
never allows readers to doubt the pain of both Alan and Delia; it
is their responses to pain we are asked to judge.
Alan and Delia are almost caricatures rather than characters, and
Henry and Jane are near-saints (well, except for the extramarital
affairs, but Lurie seems to suggest that here they are justified).
This makes it hard to like any of them; they just don't feel
Lurie's style is easy and readable, and TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES is
mostly enjoyable. But it doesn't really stick with you when it is
over. Jane and Henry are supposed to be who we are rooting for, and
we do --- for a while. But the story lacks depth and, for lack of a
better word, oomph. It reads a bit more like a smart romance novel
than the examination of the mores and intricacies of academic life
that she seems to want to write.
This is a pleasant read, funny at times. The idea of the struggles
and tensions in relationships between caregivers and those
receiving care is interesting. However, Lurie does little with it.
Despite these disappointments, TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES overall is a
nice and capable novel.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 23, 2011
Truth and Consequences