In Cabin Fever, Jolley recounts the life of a young woman named Vera Wright. Telling the story entirely from the point of view of the first-person narrator, Jolley explores the nature of memory, as she has done in many of her novels. In this book she shows her mastery of the narrative devices she has developed, as well as the natural, straightforward style that is characteristic of her writing.
The book opens in the present, with Vera Wright sitting in her room on the twenty-fourth floor of a hotel in New York, where she is scheduled to deliver a paper at a conference entitled “Perspectives on Moral Insanity.” Other papers listed in the program include “Symptoms of Panic Disorder” and “New Discoveries About Diabetes and Anorexia.” Vera appears to be suffering from some of the symptoms that she is supposed to objectively discuss at this conference of physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, and other health care workers. She knows that she should be meeting and talking with her fellow conferees, but instead she seems to be paralyzed by memories: her parents, her friends at the hospital where she trained to be a nurse, her first lover, and various people for whom she worked while trying to rear her daughter. These jobs include assisting in a home for new mothers, working in a progressive boarding school, and finally acting as a live-in housekeeper for a fifty-eight-year-old professor and his much older sister.
The foregoing summary suggests a neat, chronological succession of characters and incidents, but the story is told in the way that memory works. As Jolley herself writes: “The revival,” (of...
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