Victoria Lancelotta
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Buy *Far* online


Victoria Lancelotta
Counterpoint Press
215 pages
September 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Short story author Victoria Lancelotta debuts her first novel, Far, which explores the issues that almost every woman eventually considers - does she want to settle down, marry, have 2.5 children, and a house complete with a family dog and the proverbial white picket fence, all by the age of thirty? Will such an arrangement bring her happiness and joy, or will she be saddled with responsibilities, a dwindling love relationship and a never-changing routine for the rest of her life?

For Martha, a single thirty-year-old woman from Baltimore, the answer to settling down, marrying and starting a family, is "no". Martha is dating Edward, who does not expect a serious relationship or long-term commitment from Martha. They meet at bars for drinks and then go back to his place or Martha's apartment for the night. That is the extent of their relationship, and this arrangement suits Martha fine. She does not want a commitment, dinner and a movie, meeting his parents, or any of the other things that accompany a "real" relationship.

Other people in Martha's life feel otherwise and live more "normal" lives. Martha's childhood friend, Connie, is married, and she and her husband have just settled into their first home. Connie does not understand why Martha is dating Edward and why Martha does not settle down and get married to a suitable man. Likewise, Martha cannot relate to Connie's married lifestyle and does not equate Connie's marital status with happiness. Martha's mother is housewife whose life has been defined by taking care of her two daughters, cooking and cleaning house. Similar to Connie's lifestyle, Martha cannot relate to such an existence.

When Martha suspects that Edward may want more of a committed relationship, she feels hemmed in by her circumstances in Baltimore. While she does not want to disappoint her family and friends, she packs her things and moves South, where she opens up a new jewelry store in a small town. She quickly settles into a small rental home and gradually befriends her neighbor, Louise, an "old widow" at the age of twenty-two who has a nervous condition of hair-pulling that has left her scalp almost bald. Martha has a fling with a local married high school guidance counselor who frequents the jewelry store. Drinking wine by the bottle and housecleaning fill most of Martha's evenings.

These are attempts by Martha to distract her self, but she slowly and surely begins to think about Edward. She misses him and, although it is not clear where she should be headed in her life, or whether Edward should be part of her life, she realizes that the move down South may not have provided the resolution that she had hoped for. A phone call to her family back home reveals that her sister, Carly, is now dating Edward. Carly is completely unaware that Martha used to date Edward, and this new turn of events sends Martha into a tailspin. Martha struggles to find redemption in her situation, even though some things cannot be repaired, and she must examine her self-induced isolation.

While Far is a bit plodding at times, the overall tone of the story is delivered with a dark, complex precision that draws the reader further into the story as Martha settles into the small, no-name town in the South. Her neighbor, Louise, is an intriguing character who adds to the depth of the novel, as does her fling with the guidance counselor and her complex relationships with her mother and her sister, Carly. Far delves into important and imminent issues that single, self-supporting young women today must consider before they decide which path to take in their own lives.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Shannon I. Bigham, 2004

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