Forgive This Trespass

Slightly artsy, slightly prudish? Grace Dane Mazur
Jim Harrison
Grace Dane Mazur
Graywolf Press

Women, we're being told by everything from the most current articles in Bitch to the mainstream film Unfaithful, are lusty things capable of making cuckolds of their husbands for no other reason than to have a good time. Big deal, right? The twist is that these women are not victims seeking solace from bad marriages. These are women cheating on perfectly good spouses. Consider Maggie, a middle-aged housewife and the much-sought-after heroine of Trespass. Who could blame Maggie? Her husband sounds as sweet and bland as vanilla ice cream; meanwhile, there is a naked man bathing in her basement, drinking a glass of Scotch.

Trespass, the first full-length novel from Grace Dane Mazur (Silk), hovers just this side of the romance novel and in Jan Karon's sphere of influence, a story for those who are slightly artsy, slightly prudish, and slightly obsessed with the East Coast lifestyle. Maggie and husband Hugh live on a quaint New England farm. She likes to sew and sculpt; he's into sailboats. The biggest upsets to their household usually are rabid raccoons and visiting relatives. Maggie's cousin Jake, a gardener and part-time preacher, lives on the adjacent farm and lusts for Maggie from afar. Enter Grenville, a mysterious man who one day shows up on Maggie's farm like a brute bent on seduction, and seems like the cure for everyone's summertime snooze.

But not even Grenville can ignite the often improbable--and frequently boring--Trespass. Over the course of a summer, we learn (and none too quickly) about Maggie's family--a dizzying, unmemorable cast that even Maggie tells us more than once she cannot keep track of. Except perhaps her daughter, Gillian, who also has a tryst with Grenville; and Jake, the cousin and most empathetic character crafted here. He is the one who hears, often in stilted dialogue, the tales of these affairs, details of which are not particularly steamy--unless one is turned on by a post-coital treat of Oreo cookies. What with a woman in her 50s at the epicenter of love meltdown, the elements for a crisis-ridden tale would seem to be present. Yet the characters never become intimate, and any tension they might generate is lost in prose that needs more honing. Instead, the plot is like a long, hot bus ride, where you are often faced with a vista that, instead of pulsing with an entire neighborhood's pent-up sexuality, is merely sleepy.

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