The Distance Between Us
Bart Yates
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Buy *The Distance Between Us* by Bart Yates online

The Distance Between Us
Bart Yates
352 pages
September 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This tale is about a woman haunted by the past and on the verge of despair about her future. Famous concert pianist Hester Parker lives in her church-like ramshackle house with high ceilings and large oval windows, spending her days guzzling wine and ruminating over the disintegration of her marriage to Arthur and the sudden animosity of her two children, Paul and Caitlin.

The last few months haven't been easy for Hester as she is in danger of losing her precious house to Arthur. Set adrift in a sea of loneliness, only the memories of Hesterís beloved classical music still flutter around her like a melodious symphony, her grand piano ďa glorious dinosaurĒ and her only source of pleasure, the last remnant of the life she once lived.

When college student Alex comes to visit, heís immediately in thrall to this grand dame of stage and of music. Trusting her instincts, Hester allows Alex to move into the upstairs loft, once the home of Hester's son Jeremy. This young manís presence in Hesterís house becomes a catalyst, their quietly ambivalent connection providing much of this storyís backbone. Alex seems to know how Hester feels and gives her the quiet friendship she craves, but the requisite bad news of Arthurís machinations along with the constant plotting of Martha, Arthurís mistress, do little to slip the burdens of her life off Hesterís shoulders.

Overwhelmed by her circumstances and with the pain in her left hand always overwhelming, Hester is appalled when Arthur unceremoniously arrives at her doorstep and accuses her of destroying his priceless antique chair, and of taking on another tenant without his consent. Thus the stage is set for Hesterís dramas to unfold, playing out almost like a symphony within her talented but dysfunctional family.

As this poor woman unfurls into the past then yanks herself back to the present, Hester finds herself an unwilling victim of circumstance, left to spend her days trying to deflect Paulís anger. A man who now has few friends, Paul blames his mother for everything that had happened to Jeremy and thinks that his mother could perhaps have changed the outcome and prevented Jeremy from doing what he did. Consequently, the far-too sensitive Alex steps into a hornetís nest of pent-up fury and familial ill-will. Itís not surprising, then, that everything culminates in a series of violent set-pieces that pit Alex against Paul and Hester against her husband.

Shepherding us into the shallows of one womanís life, Hester remains at the core of Bart Yates' intuitive character study, a victim of a life she considers a disaster with her prospects for tomorrow just as grim: ďIím still at war with my family, Iím still tired old and angry.Ē Although relief may once have come through a crippled, tenuous love between Hester and her children, Hesterís passion for music proves to be her only solace, the delicate notes from the great sonatas and symphonies a delicate counterbalance to Hesterís hatred and vitriol at both herself and her family.

Meanwhile, the ghost of Jeremy constantly reappears phoenix-like in Hesterís life, the long-ago events forcing this family into a ďstunned and nightmarish silence,Ē unable to face the reality of what happened. Left instead to create a new life from the fragments of her broken family, Hester must somehow bridge the distance between herself, Arthur and her remaining children. Luckily, however, Alex may just the panacea that Hester so needs and craves.

Focusing on the good and bad moments in oneís life, Yates has written a compelling drama of hope that is often decimated by the realities of life where we often do what we can to survive and make sense of the world. Although some of the more violent clashes between Hester and her family lack the realism one expects from a family such as this, the authorís strength is in choosing the delicate musical notes to symbolize the ultimate healing force in this sad, melancholy, and sensitive drama.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2008

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