Feast of Love (Baxter) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
[Baxter] ratchets up a sense of the odd shadowy night world in much the same way that a dream pun resonates far deeper than your average play on words. What's more, every magical promise implicit in this night is kept: The Feast of Love is as precise, as empathetic, as luminous as any of Baxter's past work. It is also rich, juicy, laugh-out-loud funny and completely engrossing. Extraordinary.... What's amazing—but never distracting—is how distinctive Baxter makes the different voices of all these characters.
Jacqueline Carey - New York Times Book Review


A near perfect book, as deep as it is broad in its humaneness, comedy and wisdom.
Washington Post Book World


Feast of Love is a radiant work of art that evokes the romance that the characters describe. To find out how things play out for this extraordinary bunch of ostensibly ordinary Midwesterners, pick up this funny, sad, gorgeous novel.
Gabriella Stern - Wall Street Journal


Baxter (First Light, Harmony of the World, Believers) has for too long been a writer's writer whose books have enjoyed more admirers than sales. Pantheon appears confident that his new novel can be his breakout work. It certainly deserves to be. In a buoyant, eloquent and touching narrative, Baxter breaks rules blithely as he goes along, and the reader's only possible response is to realize how absurd rules can be. Baxter begins, for example, as himself, the author, waking in the middle of the night and going out onto the predawn streets of Ann Arbor (where Baxter in fact lives). Meeting a neighbor, Bradley Smith, with his dog, also called Bradley, he is told the first of the spellbinding stories of love—erotic, wistful, anxious, settled, ecstatic and perverse—that make up the book, woven seamlessly together so they form a virtuosic ensemble performance. The small cast includes Bradley, who runs the local coffee shop called Jitters; Diana, a tough-minded lawyer and customer he unwisely marries after the breakup of his first marriage to dog-phobic Kathryn; Diana's dangerous lover, David; Chloe and Oscar, two much-pierced punksters who are also Jitters people and who enjoy the kind of sensual passion older people warn will never last, but that for them lasts beyond the grave; Oscar's evil and lustful dad; philosophy professor Ginsberg, who pines for his missing and beloved son, Aaron; and Margaret, the black emergency room doctor with whom Bradley eventually finds a kind of peace. The action takes place over an extended period, but such is the magic of Baxter's telling that it seems to be occurring in the author's mind on that one heady midsummer night. His special gift is to catch the exact pitch of a dozen voices in an astutely observed group of contemporary men and women, yet retain an authorial presence capable of the most exquisite shadings of emotion and passion, longing and regret. Some magical things seem to happen, even in Ann Arbor, but the true magic in this luminous book is the seemingly effortless ebb and flow of the author's clear-sighted yet deeply poetic vision.
Publishers Weekly


The different longings people subsume within the actions of loving others are explored with wry affection: an extremely likable third novel from the celebrated author (Believers, 1997; Shadow Play, 1993, etc.) It consists of stories told to author Charles Baxter by several of his mutually involved neighbors, beginning when Charlie, strolling his hometown's nearly deserted streets on an insomniac midsummer night, sneaks into Michigan Stadium and observes a young couple making love on the football field's 50-yard line, then meets his neighbor Bradley Smith, who (not entirely credibly) pours out the tale of losing his wife Kathryn to another woman. The scope steadily expands, as we become acquainted with Kathryn's version of her marriage's failure, Bradley's dog (also named Bradley—a rather Anne Taylor-touch); then, in roughly this order, teenaged Chloé (who waitresses at the coffee shop Bradley runs) and her "reformed boy outlaw" sweetheart Oscar; Bradley's next-door neighbor Harry Ginsberg, a doggedly idealistic philosophy professor whose familial happiness is threatened by the anger of his estranged son; Bradley's new wife Diana (who continues her affair with her married lover David); and, yes, others. The Feast of Love achieves an eccentric, fascinating rhythm about halfway through, when its characters' now-established individual stories begin bouncing off one another intriguingly. The novel is quite skillfully (if unconventionally) plotted, and grips the reader's emotions surely as Baxter connects its distinctive dots during some absorbing climactic actions, when the genuine love between Chloe and Oscar (two wonderfully realized characters) takes on an unexpected maturity and gravity. Just a shade too warm and fuzzy to be fully successful, but awfully entertaining nevertheless. And the Joycean monologue (spoken by Chloe) and graceful acknowledgement of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with which Baxter ends this rueful tale of romantic folly, are the perfect touches.
Kirkus Reviews

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