Mary Stolz Lael Scott - Essay

Lael Scott

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Leap Before You Look"] is very bright and busy. Although divorce is the pivot, the author has added so many "with-it" subjects—Women's Lib, ecology, drop-outs, encounter groups—that at times her fiction resembles a new variety of the "Whole Earth Catalog." Her characters ring true, and so does her dialogue. Unfortunately her heroine, Jimmie (whom we pick up as a tomboy and leave a romantic teen-ager), falls disastrously out of character in the middle of the book. From the onset Jimmie seems to understand—better than they—her parents' constant dissension and her mother's peculiar withdrawal and hostility. But when her parents finally announce that they are actually going through with a divorce, Jimmie reacts with rage compounded by complete astonishment. How can this "perfectly happy marriage" break up? This kind of nonsequential thinking is inconsistent and—at the least—disconcerting. (p. 8)

Lael Scott, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 3, 1972.

[In The Edge of Next Year] Mary Stolz first gives fourteen-year-old Orin Woodward an idyllic family life: home is a rustic, unworked farm; Father a journalist who reads poetry aloud; brother Victor a delightfully grave youngster fascinated by snakes and bugs; his mother, Rose, a lover of plants and word play and given to watching the moon through binoculars. No sooner is all this established, than it is shattered by a freak auto accident that leaves Orin's mother dead—"thrown to the side of the road like a woodchuck, or a dog"—and plunges his father into alcoholism. The shock and numbness of sudden tragedy are sharply drawn. What follows is not so much an examination of the problem of alcoholism as of the burdens borne by the alcoholic's family. Indeed, Orin's father remains enigmatic, his recovery as well as his decline inadequately motivated, whereas Orin's moods are probed layer by layer, and are most revealing in the degree to which his bitterness, resentment, and fear of abandonment are seen as acceptable and even sympathetic. The rather judgmental treatment of Orin's father is enriched somewhat by the presence of some complex minor characters…. A mixture of good to middling moments—probably better as a study of the aftermath of a parent's death than of the drinking problem—this strengthens the introspective vein established in 1973's Land's End. (pp. 111-12)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1974 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), October 15, 1974.