The Fortune Teller

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The strong, troubled bonds between parent and child are one of the subjects of Marsha Norman;s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, ’NIGHT MOTHER, and she continues to explore the theme in her first novel. THE FORTUNE TELLER offers a complex portrait of parent-child relationships, ranging from Fay’s desperate, smothering love for Lizzie to the self-absorbed mayor’s wife, who is less concerned with the welfare of her kidnapped sons than she is with turning the situation into a political advantage. The kidnapping drama unfolding throughout the story is tied directly to the issue of abortion, perhaps the most explosive and emotional of parent-and-child related subjects. The theme that emerges again and again in Norman’s story is the potential for pain and sorrow that exists in the depth of a parent’s love for a child, and nearly all of the key events in the book grow out of this complicated but inescapable truth.

THE FORTUNE TELLER is an absorbing, sometime startling mixture of realism and the supernatural, and Fay Morgan is a fascinating fictional creation. The novel’s best moments are the result of Fay’s matter-of-fact approach to her remarkable psychic gifts--which the book accepts as a given--an approach which makes her use of tarot cards and palm reading seem a natural and understandable part of the real world. Conversely, the novel’s weakest aspects are its occasional lapses in believable human behavior--for example, the hunted kidnapper who nevertheless shows up as scheduled at an arm wrestling competition.

Overall, however, THE FORTUNE TELLER is a compelling book. Beautifully written and peopled with sharply drawn characters, this strange and thought-provoking tale establishes Norman as a presence to be reckoned with in fiction as well as drama.