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Literary Classics    

 

Set In Motion
by Valerie Martin
LSU. Press, 2001
ISBN:
0-8071-2735-3
 
 

The most recent reprint in LSU's impressive "Voices of the South" series is Valerie Martin's Set in Motion. In 1978, when the novel was published, Anatole Broyard, writing in the New York Times, described the book as "an acute first novel." Twenty-three years later, Set in Motion, is a powerful reminder of a young woman's sexuality in a pre-AIDS society. Helene
Thatcher, the narrator of the novel, is a precursor to both "Ally McBeal" and the women in "Sex in the City".

Having dropped out of the academic world, Helene now works for the city of New Orleans in the welfare offices. Her supervisors praise Helene for her efficient and dispassionate attitude. While she comes in contact with despair and chaos on a daily basis, no one in the office is aware of the dark side of Helene's life. She's slept with her academic advisor's
fiancé
/husband, considers a drug addict to be her boyfriend, and her best friend's husband is stalking her. Helene's coping mechanism is fragile. Her lifestyle is gritty, erotic, and detached.

In lesser hands, Helene Thatcher would be a throwaway character. Valerie Martin makes her a young woman with the hope and potential for transformation. Helene's moral compass may have gone awry but her center is intact.

Valerie Martin was born in Missouri and grew up in New Orleans. She currently resides in upstate New York. She has written six novels -- including Mary Reilly and A Recent Martyr -- two short story collections and a biography of St. Francis.


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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