Book review: “Laugh in the dark”

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Can a novel steeped in and obsessed with the final inevitability be joyful? “Laughing in the Dark” by the late Susan Swartz is just that. There are three protagonists, women of a certain age. They have a strong and strong bond and they not only care about each other but are deeply loyal. The intrigue the author assured his readers came from silly, deep wine-fueled conversations with his own close friends.

The novel opens as the trio embark on what is an annual camping trip. It’s time to bathe and soak without pretension. There’s Jude, who is slightly overweight and has a dedicated husband and daughter who works in San Francisco. She is overwhelmed with anxiety because her memory has been a bit faulty lately and she is worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease. She had seen her mother pitifully decline in a vegetative state and she feared that this was also her fate. She panics. The other two ladies notice his aberrant behavior. Anna is a real estate agent and has had successful breast cancer surgery. She also has a galloping husband and a flamboyant mother-in-law who lives with them. Her stepmother recently changed her name from Helen to Heather. Franny is a teacher who writes a book and has intermittent affairs with her ex-husband until she hooks up with an old friend, Jeffrey in a wheelchair, who later becomes her lover. The chapters come and go with each of the participants. Women are quite different in temperament and style, but somehow they freeze and really love each other.

The author, Susan Swartz, was probably best known for having been a reporter and columnist for local newspapers for many years. She was a brilliant journalist but curious and compassionate, there seemed to be nothing that did not interest her.

She was very involved in art and also in charity events. One of his claims to fame was the great honor of having been sacked by the late right-wing icon, Rush Limbaugh. He called her a “fem-Nazi”. It is also said that it is the origin of the expression “bad hair day”. If there was one word to describe Susan, it would be “vivace” from the Latin vivere, to live. She shone, until the day after her husband died, when she parked her car at Bodega Head and deliberately walked over the barrier and down the cliff.

With “Laughing in the Dark”, she leaves a poignant and powerful legacy.

Diane McCurdy can be reached at [email protected] Diane was born in Santa Rosa, has a BA from SF State and a Masters from SSU in English Literature and several teaching degrees, two grown children and three cats. Diane has a lifelong interest in cinema, hence her DVD reviews of a wide variety of films. Obviously, this interest in the creative imagination extends to the printed page and book reviews for those who love to read.


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