Who Do You Love

In her highly acclaimed novels DUE EAST (1987) and HOW I GOT HIM BACK (1989), Valerie Sayers introduced readers to the dreamy, quirky, but definitely realistic Southern town of Due East and its citizens, firmly rooted in their specific place but still representative of human natured at large.

The dimensions of human nature are Sayers’ concern in WHO DO YOU LOVE, and her intelligent, funny and moving novel reveals the highs, lows, and messy middles that people fashion for themselves.

Due East, a small, seaside town that seems half as old as time itself, is changing along with the rest of the country. It’s 1963, the Civil Rights movement is stirring, Kennedy’s New Frontier is still fresh, and there’s a sense of new, sometimes troubling, opportunity.

Troubling indeed are the changes for the Rooney family, a contentious Irish Catholic brood at war with itself and the world. Bill Rooney meditates glumly on the decline of his real estate business and the disintegration of his marriage. His wife Delores, pregnant again and puzzled by the traps time and the past have set for her, slides into an affair with a visiting reporter, an act that yields her something that is neither guilt nor pleasure, yet not exactly relief.

Most battered, but defiantly unbowed by change, is Kate Rooney, the sixth-grade daughter of Bill and Delores. Much of the novel is filtered through Kate’s wry, perceptive vision of Due East and growing up. Whether she’s puzzling over almost unknown but oddly familiar sexual words in the dictionary or watching horrified the actions of the mysterious Snake Man, Kate Rooney is a vivid and memorable character.

But then, all the folks who inhabit Due East are vivid and memorable, their foibles and natures captured deftly and touchingly in Valerie Sayers’ accomplished examination of the human comedy.