BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Foregone’ by Russell Banks

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Forgone’ by Russell Banks

Two of my favorite writers, Richard Russo and Russell Banks, are feeling their advanced ages in recent nostalgic, look-back novels, which is a bit sad for their readers who aren’t quite ready to call a halt to a yearning for new adventures.

In this one, renowned Canadian filmmaker Leonard Fife is dying of cancer and how the subject of a documentary by one of his former students. Leo sees this as his chance to redeem himself and to show his wife and work partner of 40 years, Emma, that he truly loves her, something he has been unable to feel or express during their marriage.

Instead, his on-camera recital of several key events in his life, including a meetup with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez in Boston in the early ’60s, turns into a confession of wrongs committed against parents, ex-wives, abandoned children, and friends.

Leo’s wife Emma denies the truth of much of what he claims he’s telling her for the first time, and says he’s conflating imaginary events with the reality of years together. This puts the reader in a spot — who’s telling the truth here? — but it doesn’t really matter, as the stories are rambling, filled with pathos, fear and a longing for escape, and Leo finally does achieve peace with himself.

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