In modern, fast-changing times, we seldom pause for reflection. But now and then, almost by surprise, we find ourselves pondering important existential questions: Why are we here? How are we spending our time? What gives meaning to our lives?
In Mae Briskins new novel, A Hole in the Water, Anne is a sixty-seven-year-old widow who hosts a minor television cable show that deals with societal problems. She is also an author, having written about the Italian Resistance when Germany occupied Italy during World War II. Fourteen years ago, Anne and her husband started a search for their daughter who, at age sixteen, ran away from home, and when their daughter was reported seen in Florence they directed their searches there. On the second of their many trips they were aided by Vincenzo, who is Annes age and to whom Anne was at once attracted. When she learned of his anti-Fascist activities during the war, her regard for him grew.
Now, years after her husband has died, Anne is returning to Italy, not, she believes, to look for her daughter, but only to see Vincenzo again. He is married, but an affair begins despite her guilt, and Vincenzo becomes dependent on her and needs her to stay, even if briefly, just to prove her commitment to him. And despite having expected not to look for her daughter, she does, and does indeed find her. She must now face the emotional chasm between the grown daughter and herself. She must also face the distance between the woman she was at homemaking a difference because of her workand the woman a self-absorbed Vincenzo wants her to be.
She makes those choices, confidently, yet fully aware the decision might prove to be wrong.
Mae Briskins work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, was syndicated in newspapers by the PEN Syndicated Fiction Project, and was broadcast in Europe over Voice of America. The first of her two previous books, A Boy Like Astrids Mother, a collection of stories (1988, W.W. Norton), won the PEN/American West Award for short fiction. Her novel, The Tree Still Stands (1991, Norton), was a finalist for the fiction award. Born in New York City, she now lives in Palo Alto, California.