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Baltimore Bartleby

A misanthrope is suddenly awakened by love.

Feb 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 20 • By DIANE SCHARPER
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Liam and Eunice’s affair does not run smoothly—not just because Eunice dresses poorly, doesn’t want to be seen in public with Liam, and speaks in dangling modifiers. No, the two face a much more serious problem when Liam learns Eunice’s secret; ultimately, their complex love story poses an uphill battle. Even though everyone tells Liam that he must first look out for his own happiness regardless of how this affects others, he comes to a different conclusion. Liam’s handling of this moral dilemma offers a brave stance for a contemporary novel. But a story about doing the right thing isn’t necessarily entertaining. That’s especially true if the main character isn’t big enough to handle the soul-searching ramifications of his actions. 

And Liam doesn’t seem to be that big. He does the right thing, but we never know how he feels or why he feels that way. His second wife left him because she thought he wasn’t forthcoming. And he isn’t. Unfortunately, Tyler portrays these characters in quick and facile pencil sketches. If Liam has an interior life, we never know about it because Tyler never gets inside his psyche. And while a light touch might work with a character facing a less momentous decision, it seems almost glib here, and it doesn’t fit with the conflict that Liam faces. He isn’t a Prince Hamlet, but he should have been.


Diane Scharper teaches English at Towson University.


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