BEAT by Amy Boaz

Book Quote:

Everything is illusion, and I am confident that all is well. – a Tibetan adept

Book Review:

Review by Beth Chariton (JAN 11, 2010)

Francis’s story is a familiar one – she’s a housewife who’s bored in her marriage, unfulfilled as a mother at home, and unsure of her own identity. She’s married to reliable, boring, regular Harry. They live in the suburbs of New York City with their two children, seven-year-old Cathy and three-year-old Bernie. The man she was once so attracted to when they married, has become chubby, clumsy, and pathetic in her eyes.

Francis meets Beat poet, Joseph Pasternak at a wedding. He’s the total opposite of Harry – he’s artsy, philosophical, worldly and poetic, and she’s immediately smitten. She begins to fantasize about him, and they write personal letters to each other almost daily, full of erotic and romantic possibilities. Within a few weeks she’s on her way to Colorado where they begin an illicit, irrational affair. With Joseph, Francis creates her fantasy world where she feels sexy, desirable, living a life that’s passionate, interesting, and way more exciting than her regular life.

Harry is angry and upset by the affair, which Francis does very little to conceal, but he refuses to leave his wife and break up their family. While she’s away with Joseph, Harry tends to the house, the kids, and his job as an engineer. At first, he sleeps on the couch, but then builds himself a hut in the backyard, where he sleeps and works.

Joseph is not a self made man; he has been molded by his common law wife, Arlene Manhunter, a powerful and persuasive woman who is used to getting what she wants, and is relentless in her pursuits. She’s the respected founder of a school of poetry and translation, and she conveniently makes Joseph a Sanskrit professor. She provides him with a lifestyle that any man could want, in the hopes of calming his wandering eye.

When Arlene realizes that Francis might be a real threat, she does everything in her power to separate Joseph from her. She harasses Francis, threatening her by phone, and telling her of Joseph’s other indiscretions, hoping to scare her away, but Francis doesn’t care. When Arlene can no longer control Joseph, and sees he’s used her to get ahead, she disappears, knowing he will be arrested for suspicion of murder. Fearing that she’s next on the list of suspects, Francis begs Harry to let her go to Paris with their daughter, Cathy. He relents after many heated arguments.

Once in Paris, Francis takes on a carefree and bohemian existence, another fantasy world. Like Joseph, Paris is exhilarating to her, and she can’t understand why her daughter doesn’t immediately fall in love with the city. They go to museums and cafes, from hotel to hotel, oblivious to their limited funds. Their time there is extravagant and unrealistic, much like Francis’ affair with Joseph.

After some time in Paris, they realize they’re being watched. Eventually, Cathy and Francis befriend Lewis, the private investigator who’s been sent to follow them. Francis is still in contact with Joseph, who is in prison. But as time passes, the flaws of her relationship with Joseph begin to surface, and she realizes that she’s a long way from home, and the comfortable life that she took for granted. Although she’s suspicious, Francis begins to answer Lewis’ questions, finally exposing the truth – that she was in over her head, caught in a love triangle where she had no control, and that she had nothing to do with the disappearance of Arlene Manhunter.

The book was intricately written, and driven by frustrating characters. At first, I couldn’t find anything to like about Francis – she seemed selfish, insensitive and narcissistic. I couldn’t understand what she saw in Joseph. He saw himself as the victim in all of his failed affairs, couldn’t sustain himself financially, and had no official professional merits that he’d accomplished independently. But yet sensually, many women were drawn to him as a poet and a lover of nature. Harry consistently appeared as a doormat, and I wanted him to put Francis in her place. And Arlene, who was so beautiful, talented and capable, ended up to be no more personally assured than the others in the story. As the story slowly developed, I realized how hard Francis was trying to be someone she never would be, and how saddened and defeated she was by accepting her life and who she had become.

There were points where I almost ran out of patience, waiting to see a glimpse of a redeeming quality in Francis, while Joseph’s surface charm quickly dissipated. I found myself disappointed that Harry didn’t have more self-respect. The ending was depressing, and other than Francis realizing that the affair had to end, and that she had taken her wonderful family life for granted, I couldn’t find any positive outcome for any of the other characters. However, the story was thought provoking, and could certainly inspire a number of interesting and reflective debates. It was definitely geared more towards women, and many will secretly relate to Francis and her personal dilemma.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 1 readers
PUBLISHER: Permanent Press (August 1, 2009)
REVIEWER: Beth Chariton
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Only information I could find on Amy Boaz
EXTRAS: Another review of BEAT
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: This one makes me think of :

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Good Morning, Darkness by Ruth Francisco


January 11, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: France, New York City, Thriller/Spy/Caper

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