Dorothy Weil’s new novel, Love and Terror, takes place in a past so recent that we’ve all been there — the middle of the 21st century’s first decade — and is set in a place we know just as well, Cincinnati.
The other side of the Love coin is Terror, it seems, and both love and terror have many faces. This story centers on three generations of a middle-class family — some living in Clifton, some in the outer ’burbs, somebody on Main Street above what must have been the old Kaldi’s coffee shop and bookstore but here is called something else. Weil, a Cincinnatian herself and author of three previous novels, lets us know how things look and feel from multiple viewpoints as her story moves to its not easily predictable end. Indeed, the ending suggests more developments to come — quite a lot like life.
This readable book moves along briskly, the unfolding story in present tense, the chapters sometimes as short as a page or a paragraph. Weil has developed an interesting style here, one that allows her to switch from person to person, generation to generation with ease. Each chapter is named for the individual who is central to it. We see what’s going on from that person’s viewpoint.
Not everyone gets this treatment; five characters — two from the oldest set, two from the youngest set and one, the most central of them all, from the middle — are the chosen observers and are the ones we come to know best.
One element of the terror of the title is an unexpected complication following what should have been a routine knee operation for Eric, of the 50-something middle generation. He has a heart attack in the operation’s immediate aftermath and the family suddenly finds all its focus on the real possibility of losing him. Weil is unrelenting on the hard facts of the modern hospital experience, which can accomplish miracles but is not designed for the comfort of caregivers.
The local setting makes this a fun read for Cincinnatians, but its concerns and implications give it a broader appeal. Grade: A