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IN BRIEF

Fiction

November 06, 1994|ERIKA TAYLOR

HALO by John Loveday (Harcourt Brace: $19.95; 286 pp.) Set in the mid-1800s, "Halo" chronicles the journey of a small band of pioneers traveling along the Oregon trail. The protagonist, Scrag, is a man-boy who falls in love with Lorelei, a woman old enough to be his mother. Lorelei's pubescent daughter, Justly, and Sylvester, a well-educated photographer, make up the other major characters.

One of the thoroughlines of "Halo" is Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." After Sylvester introduces the book to Scrag and Lorelei, they have many conversations about the meaning of the poems, all of which feel contrived. Another problem lies in Sylvester's photography. He takes artistic pictures of the journey to record " . . . truth. The record of how it was. Here, under this particular bit of God's Heaven, at this particular moment." Later in the novel his pictures cause enormous suffering in a manner that could have been a sad and surprising plot turn, but instead becomes a statement about truth and art.

"Halo" is written in an engaging style, and Lovejoy has some fine details. Hopefully, his future work will feel more natural.

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