By Melinda Haynes
Free Press, Hardcover, 9780743238496, 416pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
List Price: $24.00*
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Willem Fremont has spent his adult life held tight inside the clenched fist of panic disorder. Determined to break the pattern -- even as he reaches his twilight years -- Willem returns to his childhood home in Purvis, Mississippi, where he believes the solution lies. There he discovers his father's acreage in the hands of the idiosyncratic Till family. Eilene, mother of Sonny and Bruno and "no bigger than a dress form," pretends to be deaf as a way of dealing with her grown boys -- each of whom suffers from inertia. Sonny, hugely fat, perennially unemployed, and looking for love, is building a shrimp boat in his mother's landlocked backyard. Bruno, who has returned from Vietnam with a spinal injury and wearing a brace, escapes into the glossy pages of old "National Geographics" while his wife, Leah, tries to find a small measure of comfort in the day-to-day tending of their farm.
From these unsettled lives comes a story of reconciliation against all odds and a vision of rekindled love as well as a compassionate portrait of small-town life that celebrates the unusual, embraces the unwanted, and opens its arms to all lost souls in search of a home. Steeped in the traditions of great southern storytellers like Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner, "Willem's Field" is nonetheless a wholly original and vividly imaginative novel by a brilliantand assured writer.