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The End of an Error    by Mameve Medwed order for
End of an Error
by Mameve Medwed
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In The End of an Error, Mameve Medwed has a lot of fun addressing the question, 'Do you ever get over your first, true love?' Her heroine is middle-aged empty nester Magnolia (Lee), who has always been torn between the lifestyles of her Auntie Mame grandmother Marguerite and her stolid twinset/pinstripe Maine parents. The balance settled solidly on the Maine side after her parents died on the one and only adventure of their lives, when their Cessna went down over the Amazon. The tragedy ended the era (error?) of Lee's orientation to Marguerite's way of thinking, and to her turning away from her first love, Simon Abernathy.

Lee married historian Ben, whose lifetime (and entertaining) obsession has been Nathaniel Tarbell, 'hitherto unknown chronicler of Maine's logging industry', had three children and wrote a memoir about her grandmother, which also mentioned her meeting with, and feelings for, Simon. The book has just been published by the tiny, local Pine Tree Press - located 'above the Awash and Adry Laundromat' - as the novel opens. Savoring the joy of authorship, Lee remembers the long ago European summer with the vain Marguerite ('who spread her gilded wings and took off anywhere' and considered her own daughter 'much too Maine') and her grandmother's approval of Simon.

Despite feeling 'like a spear-carrier receding into the scenery away from the diva's spotlit aria' with Marguerite, Lee loved her grandmother, and further flashbacks reveal more of their relationship (the deathbed scene is particularly touching, and what happens to the ashes is hilariously apt) as well as another encounter between Lee and Simon after both were married. Not knowing quite why, Lee mails her book to her lost love and a succession of events involving her college placement job and the raging success of Ben's book on Nathaniel, send them both to England and the author's answer to the novel's question.

I enjoyed the mix of farce and basic truths in this story, which alternated between making me smile and feel a 'yes, that's how it is' recognition of moments that are universal. And you have to laugh at the ending, as our heroine sets off into the sunset on a 'gleaming silver bus' with the garden club ladies. You'll enjoy The End of an Error very much, as I did.

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