ANNA DELANEY'S CHILD by John Thorndike (Macmillan: $17.95; 224 pp.). We find out immediately that the child of the title is dead. Although Anna Delaney is nothing if not capable, she did not see the icy patch below the road's smooth surface. Chance has made her the inadvertent killer of her 9-year-old son.
John Thorndike's first novel is replete with suffering: Anna's mother is dead of bone cancer; her father is dating a (cheerful) paraplegic; her ex-husband has done his time in a mental hospital, making his way as a drifter, unable to catch up with his grief.
Loss and recovery is the expressed theme of this often-vivid novel. The best parts show Anna working in the Ohio fields with her own hands: The same hands that drove the car into a tree, the same hands that burn her son's possessions in an eerie bonfire of memory and loss, coax the green seedlings into life.
Chance brings Anna a second reproductive pastime in the person of Jay--an ardent dancer who leads his reluctant partner back into the salutary dance of the living.
There is a lot of suffering here, and, sometimes, a disturbing biological explicitness to the erotic scenes. Still, Thorndike has written a quirky, ambitious and daring book.