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ADELE AT THE END OF THE DAY by Tom Marshall (Faber & Faber: $8.95)

September 18, 1988|ELENA BRUNET

In a Toronto residential hotel, an old woman contemplates her disastrous relationship with her only child and fends off her paid companion, Florence, who has fallen under the spell of a cult leader. Several hundred miles to the south, in New York, her adopted son, Kevin, newly divorced, prowls local bars and tries to put the fragments of his life back together.

At the center of both lives is memory: of marriage, of love squandered, of sexual adventures and misadventures (the mother, hard-drinking and dissolute even in old age, takes pride in early promiscuity; the son, more guiltily, spends much of his time trying to seduce a handsome bartender).

Marshall's language is masterly and rich, at times overflorid. The result is an original dual portrait of two eccentrics and their even more eccentric relationship.

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