Faultline is a comic novel with a serious message conveyed by example and implication rather than by preaching. Sheila Ortiz Taylor creates a shining cast of characters who speak about their relationships to Arden Benbow as Arden battles her former husband Malthus for custody of their six children. Malthus has never considered women equal to men, and his male ego is hurt when Arden prefers living with a woman to staying with him in their dull marriage. He provides the prime example of a person who cannot accept individual differences or see that others have a right to their own lives.
The theme of acceptance of individual differences runs throughout the novel. Malthus is a repeat of Arden’s uncle, Mr. Groot, who tries to control his wife in every way. Aunt Vi, however, will not be stifled. She is full of energy and believes that life should be fun and joyful. Mr. Groot has a mistress, and he immediately puts Vi in a hospital when she has a mild stroke. Aunt Vi refuses to end her days in the confining institution. She breaks free and takes Arden to Mexico with her, as much for Arden’s sake as for her own.
Arden, however, falls into the same marriage trap her aunt did. For example, Malthus refuses to let her go to graduate school; his wife should stay home with the children. It is not until she and Alice Wicks fall in love that Arden can see what her aunt meant about freeing oneself to live fully and to develop the creative spirit within oneself. Alice too had married because that is what society expected of her, but she learns that she must be herself and follow her own spirit.
The “faultline” of the title refers to the actual geography of the setting in Southern California, but it is also a metaphor...
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