Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Larry was once a floral designer, but now he's taken on something much more ambitious: he designs mazes. Shields's new book is constructed like a maze, and her real purpose is to consider what it means to be male in the 1990s. The 150,000-copy first printing doesn't seem out of line, considering that Stone Diaries has over 700,000 copies in print. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Pulitzer Prize winner Shields (The Stone Diaries, Viking, 1994) follows 20 years of Larry Weller's life, culminating in an unforgettable party. Larry goes from work as an ordinary man, a floral designer, to become a noted architect of garden mazes. Like the mazes he designs, his life becomes increasingly complex‘a symbol of what it is like to be a Caucasian male in the late 20th century. His interactions with his parents, his sister, the two women who (consecutively) marry and divorce him, and his son are paralleled by the additional textures and colors he builds into the hedges he designs. The chapters gradually reveal the threads of the protagonist's identity. This well-written, satisfying novel is replete with telling metaphors, memorable phrases, and gentle satire. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/97.]‘Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

A chronicle of one ordinary man's life as he searches‘at first, bumblingly and inarticulately‘for happiness and the meaning of existence, this triumphant novel runs in delicious counterpoint to Shields's evocation of Daisy Stone's life in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Stone Diaries. In following her male protagonist over five decades, Shields observes the changing social conventions, gender roles, vernacular idiosyncracies and moral constructs of the times, interpolating these details into the narrative with subtle wit and an unerring eye for telling details. She also delineates the stages of life as the body ages and the future offers only the "steady decline of limitless possibility," while the mind hopes for the solace of some universal truths. Born in 1950 into a blue-collar household in Winnipeg, Larry Weller becomes a floral designer for want of a better career goal. Aware of his lack of education, awkward and sexually timid (his eventual sexual awakening is both raunchy and funny), Larry is dimly conscious of another aspect of life beyond his parochial horizons. Only during his first honeymoon in England, willfully lost inside the maze at Hampton Court, does he get a glimmer that he might be more than "a man of limited imagination and few choices." When his fascination with shrubby labyrinths becomes a professional career, Larry moves into a wider world (and from Canada to the U.S. and back again) as a financially successful and internationally recognized maze builder. He also endures emotional traumas: the breakup of two marriages, estrangement from his son, midlife crisis and a catastrophic illness. Meanwhile, he is plagued with inchoate longings to understand the dimly perceived relationship between the mazes he constructs and "the undertow of something missing" in his existence. Shields offers snippets of Larry's journey through life in short chapters that often intersect and double back‘a turn here, a repetition there. The pathway of her maze becomes clear only at the end, when Larry and his lover give a party to celebrate the coincidence of his two ex-wives arriving in Toronto. Evoked in a brilliant cascade of conversation‘in which the central question is "What's it like being a man in the last days of the 20th century?"‘the party provides Larry with epiphanic insight, and the reader with some delightful surprises. The novel glows with Shield's unsentimental optimism and her supple command of a sweetly ironic and graceful prose. Penguin audio; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved