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Radiance    by Louis B. Jones order for
by Louis B. Jones
Order:  USA  Can
Counterpoint, 2011 (2011)
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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Mark Perdue is experiencing the worst sort of mid-life crisis. A physicist at UC Berkeley, he worries about his memory lapses which he blames on Lyme Disease, undiagnosed for too long. He, his wife, Audrey, and daughter Carlotta all still mourn the necessary late-term abortion of a fetus that had so many abnormalities that it would have been blind and brain-dead from birth and probably in pain as well, doomed to a short life of constant care. He has skipped an important physicist's convention in Karlsruhe, Germany, out of fear that he would embarass himself. Instead, he takes Lotta to an expensive Celebrity Weekend in Los Angeles, where a small group of teenage musicians are treated like stars for a weekend with chauffeur-driven limo rides and paid audiences to cheer their performances. Unexpected complications ensue.

Mark finds himself extremely attracted to their escort, Blythe, and she seems to reciprocate his feelings. He loves his wife Audrey, and believes that he and Blythe can control their new-found love for one another, but guilty feelings keep intruding. Then Bodie, one of the other celebrity teenagers, a talented drummer who is a paraplegic, takes an unhealthy interest in his daughter. By the time Mark finds out that Lotta and Bodie have become an item, first Lotta and then Bodie have disappeared into the Hollywood night and are not answering their cell phones. Mark and Blythe are thrown together even more in their attempts to find the two young people and bring them back into the Celebrity Weekend fold.

This rather short novel manages to make fun of so many present day attitudes. Mark questions his own motives and those of everyone he encounters during this unreal attempt at making believe these teenagers, while talented, are famous. While trying to rescue his daughter and her strange new boyfriend, he inadvertently breaks the law and is arrested, making an ironic ending to his good intentions. Behind the humor - and there are some really funny scenes - there is always the real tragedy of the abortion, as well as that of the paraplegic Bodie whose exact disability is mysterious. Mark's own worries about his memory and health, and his daughter's safety provide a constant undercurrent of uncertainty.

Unfortunately I didn't really like this tension and found the book more disturbing than enjoyable. The humor tends to be too dark and uncomfortable, and the reader is left more distressed than entertained.

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