Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend

Book title laid out in lazy curve against the Cedar Bend landscape
There’s a couple in the far distance.

The dust jacket touts Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend as a story about a once-in-a-lifetime love, but that’s misleading. James Robert Waller’s slender novel actually holds three intersecting love stories, only one of which can be told without spoiling the story.

The main story is about Michael Tillman, an economics professor, who falls head over heels in lust with the wife of a new faculty member.

Bored with husband Jim, Jellie Braden finds sexual fulfillment with Michael. Before she married Jim, Jellie Braden had had some bad experience in India which she won’t talk about.

One day Jellie just disappears.

Jim Braden is willing to wait for his wife to work out her problem but Michael gets on a plane for India, determined to find the one woman he wants.

When he finds Jellie in southwest India, he learns her previous experience there was far different—far worse—than he could have imagined.

Her present-day situation is also far more complicated than he could have imagined.

Amid all the love stories, Waller scatters wry comments about academic life that temporarily lighten the emotional tone until he can wrap up his love stories in an ending that’s more plausible than the novel’s jacket notes.

Slow Waltz at Cedar Bend
by James Robert Waller
Warner Books. ©1993. 197 p.
1993 bestseller #3; my grade: B-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Elizabeth Appleton a treat for active readers

John O’Hara can transform a drab plot about unremarkable characters into an unexpected and unsettling exploration of human behavior. In Elizabeth Appleton, O’Hara is in peak form.

Elizabeth Appleton is an attractive woman who passes for intelligent, but she has no intellectual interests or aspirations. She’s married to a college professor who likes being a college professor. Elizabeth would like him to be a college president.

John and Elizabeth have been getting along fine for nine years, but she’s beginning to feel their sex life is boring. The celebrities that she’d like to meet don’t show up on the lecture circuit in their small Pennsylvania college town.

From an unlikely cast of academics and small-town businesspeople, O’Hara creates a world in which sexual stereotypes twist like reflections in a carnival mirror. Yet O’Hara does it with a respect for his characters that keeps the story from being sordid or smutty.

O’Hara’s writing is smooth, deceptively easy to read. But he demands readers work with him, imagining the scenes, deciphering how the characters speak their lines.

Those who aren’t willing to put in the effort O’Hara demands may wonder why Elizabeth Appleton was a bestseller. Active readers will know.

Elizabeth Appleton
by John O’Hara
Random House, 1963
310 pages
1963 bestseller # 5
My grade A-
©2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni