by Julie HaleDecember, 2004
By Alan Lightman Lightman's best-selling book The Diagnosis was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000. With his fourth novel, he explores the nature of memory and the complexities of midlife through the character of a divorced literature professor named Charles. A former poet who teaches at a small liberal arts college, Charles leads the quiet life of an intellectual, relishing his time alone. But he loses his equilibrium when he attends his 30-year college reunion, an experience that draws him back into the past. Much of the novel consists of Charles' recollections of his younger days, which take place against the turbulent backdrop of the 1960s. He recalls an intense affair he had as a 22-year-old with a New York City dancer named Juliana. Beautiful and elusive, Juliana was a tortured artist, a woman obsessed with her work who wound up betraying him. Sifting through memories of the love of his life, recalling decisions and mistakes 30 years after the fact, Charles experiences universal feelings of regret and remorse as he struggles to let go of the past. Marked by finely honed prose, Reunion takes a compassionate look at the human condition. The book has its melancholy moments, but Lightman leavens the narrative with his trademark wit and insight. A reading group guide is available online at www.readinggroupcenter.com.