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Buy *Devotion* by Howard Norman online

Howard Norman
208 pages
February 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Most of its action set in rural Nova Scotia, Devotion is a study in love, the power of communication, and the expectations of others. The novel begins with an accident, but there is no explanation for the altercation, simply that it occurs between David Kozol and his father-in-law, William, the elder man injured and unable to perform his current duties as caretaker of an estate in Nova Scotia.

It is imperative that David take over Williamís tasks, which include the care of a wild swan refuge. After William is released, both return to the estate, where David resides in a cottage and William takes over the main house. Davidís bride has removed herself from the estate and from the marriage, coming on occasion to visit her father but never her estranged husband.

Thinking back on the early days of his romance with Maggie, their instant attraction and easy intimacy when first they met at a hotel in London, David is at a loss to deal with the state of his marriage. They fit together so perfectly that he never anticipated such an abrupt estrangement. Infidelity is suggested by Williamís simmering anger and restive attitude toward David, not to mention complete sympathy for his daughter in every instance.

Surrounded at night by his memories and the distant honking of the swans who take refuge on the estate, David is as isolated from himself as he is cognizant of the beauty of his surroundings. Drawn to and repelled by the swans, David learns that their beauty is deceptive, their natural state as unpredictable as humans - ill-tempered and often difficult. Such is the ambiguity of his relationship with Maggie and their recent predicament. The refuge for the swans becomes Davidís as well, at least until he finds a way to bridge the chasm with Maggie.

Fumbling through a tripartite relationship, David and Maggie must find a way to overcome their differences, a feat that can only be accomplished when William, by the grace of his good intentions, removes himself from the center of the drama. Clearly David and Maggie are victims of their impulsiveness; it is that same impetuousness that causes them to pull apart in adversity rather than come together in solution. The current lack of communication between the parties is as stunning as Maggieís statement, ďIíll forgive and forget, but Iíll remember.Ē

In spare prose that defines the state of a marriage in crisis, the author paints his characters on a bleak canvas, but one infused with beauty as well, the blank slate of possibilities, the distance between the lovers accented by the haunting rural landscape. Love being more powerful than enforced isolation, David and Maggie eventually navigate the rocky ground of their fledgling marriage toward a resolution of differences and a strong dose of forgiveness.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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