The Proprietor’s Song by Janet Goldberg
Three people with very different takes on grieving and loss wrestle with the deaths of loved ones, seeking solace and meaning in the harsh desert environment of Death Valley.
Three people with varying feelings about personal loss and grieving ramble through the forbidding environment of the Death Valley region seeking answers, or maybe just some peace of mind, hoping to find reasons that make their losses meaningful. Stanley Uribe, proprietor of a rundown motel in a California town that languishes in a limbo of mediocrity, and Grace and Elwood Fisher, typical middle-class folks who visit the desert every year are all suffering from the absence of loved ones. For Stanley, whose younger sister died mysteriously, leaving unanswered questions to torture her brother and propel him through a maze of doubt and fear, and Grace and Elwood, whose son drove into the desert and never returned, creating a hole in their lives that can’t be filled, no matter how many times they return to the site of his disappearance there seems for them all no respite from grief.
As they struggle through sleepless nights and hazy days of grief and doubt they all react, in their different ways to the pain of parting without resolution. Their searches for meaning almost take on the aspect of a mystery: how did this happen and how can the truth be found? Written in a straightforward and freely flowing prose that engages the reader and keeps the story fresh, this book will find that place in the heart that yearns for justice. Liberally adorned with detailed and vivid descriptions of the peculiar landscape of this unusual country, a mood is effectively portrayed that adds to the suspense felt by the protagonists. Will they survive the harsh vicissitudes of the desert during a violent storm? Will they be able to avoid becoming stranded, literally and figuratively, in the wilderness? The desert as metaphor for a barren waste of psychological suffering is a poignant technique that succeeds in bringing the reader into the scene.
The author is an experienced and successful practitioner of the craft and teacher of writing whose published works add to her bona fides. The text of this book is clear, concise and appealing. In spite of the somewhat dark nature of the theme, it is in the end hopeful and encouraging.