Because Abe Died
By June Felton
Book Guild Publishing. 2013. Hardback. 282pp.
Available from Kindle & Amazon £18.00 and bookshops.
Reviewed by Gloria Deutsch
Rose is a middle-aged woman who lives her life totally dependent on her husband Abe. Wealthy but insecure, she has no individual existence outside his domineering presence in her life.
When he dies, quite unexpectedly, she has to learn to cope for the first time in her life alone.
We watch Rose slowly disintegrating, becoming addicted to medication, and popping pills without any thought for what she might be doing to her health. She grows fatter and sadder and eventually commits a crime while seemingly unaware that she has done anything wrong.
But somehow she is able to stop the downward plunge her life has taken and find the inner strength to climb out of her stultifying existence.
The author clearly empathizes with Rose and subtly conveys how Abe was not the benign influence on her life that she claims him to be. We watch as she grows in stature and confidence and know there will be a happy ending along the line.
June Felton creates a cast of interesting dramatis personae – all delineated and differentiated with sharp observation of human nature, and it is a powerful exposition of widowhood.
Although the word ‘Jew’ does not appear in the book, the milieu in which it is set appears Jewish. This is not just because of the names, Abe and his sister Zelda, but somehow the comfy material existence of its protagonists chimes well with what we know of life in North-West London.
And, having suspected that the background was Jewish, it was good to have it confirmed by the author herself.
Having said that, there are elements in the book which go outside our Jewish comfort zone, with vivid accounts of lesbian relationships – one of Rose’s daughters is lesbian – and a strange episode towards the end where Rose goes on a trip to South Africa, apropos of nothing else in the novel. One cannot avoid the feeling that the author wanted to pay tribute to her native land and engineered the visit to that end.
But this is a minor carp. The book keeps the reader’s attention and fulfills the most basic demand of fiction – you really want to know what happens next.