Seasons of the Heart

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Ann marries Phillip in pre-World War II San Francisco, both love being in love. Their marriage is difficult, however, because parental enthusiasm is noticeably cool. The war claims Phillip for its duration, which he spends as a cruelly tortured prisoner of war. Left to tend his aging parents, Ann cannot stifle her resourceful energy when he returns to take charge.

By chance and her own considerable charm, she succeeds in buying and selling real estate in the city’s boom years. Meanwhile, Phillip’s legal career sputters along, undistinguished and underpaid. Both Ann and Phillip pour most of their confused and powerful love into their daughter Evie. For her sake, they stay together for twenty-five years, long after the spark of honest caring has been extinguished.

Abruptly the house of cards collapses when Ann and Phillip take lovers. Evie cannot tolerate the dissolution of her family and has a breakdown complicated by a botched abortion attempt. To help her, Ann and Phillip pretend to reconcile, a ruse that works wonders for Evie. Soon she is fully recovered and in the adoring arms of her true sweetheart.

Quickly, the parents seek out their long-suffering lovers to pick up their own lives. Yet, Ann’s drama is not over, for another crisis erupts. The heart of the story is Ann’s power to draw from deep within herself the strength to support her family and lover even when the only compensation is her own feeling of resolute allegiance.

Ann had learned the loyalty lesson when she failed once to pick Evie up after school. Phillip found the little girl huddled in a doorway, soaked and frightened. That evening, Evie was struck by meningitis. No amount of rational excusing could ease Ann’s guilt. With this knowledge, Ann is compelled to postpone indefinitely the fulfillment of her own needs.

Freeman, a best-selling writer, relies on the elemental appeal of human passions, needs, and conflicts. In this her eighth novel, set in Burma, San Francisco, and New York, the drama turns not on extraordinary events but on the emotional pain that her characters learn to live with and, occasionally, to conquer. Every Freeman fan will be delighted to join Ann as she approaches her fiftieth birthday, battle-scarred but hopeful that love will again bloom.