Carrie Brown's triumphant first novel, Rose's Garden, garnered high praise from the critics for its "simple, beautiful language," and for "plumbing the emotional depths of ordinary human beings." Just a year later, she does it again.
Lamb in Love is set in a rural English village the year of the Apollo moon landing and tells of two people surprised, halfway through their lives by...what? passion? desire? love? They haven't the experience to quite identify it.
Norris and Vida have known each other forever. Neither has had any idea how to go about falling in love.
Vida Stephen has been nanny for twenty years to the mentally handicapped son of a rich American widower. Every day for most of her life, she nods to Norris Lamb, the postmaster, when calling for her mail. Sometimes Norris offers pretty stamps to the boy. A fussy, stamp-collecting bachelor and church organist, Norris has fallen suddenly, amazingly, and secretly in love with Vida.
Witness to Norris and Vida's halting, at times embarrassing courtship is Vida's charge, Manford - mute and clumsy and yet possessed of an odd and gentle intelligence. It is through Manford, even thanks to him, that Norris and Vida finally come to recognize each other and themselves.
Carrie Brown has an affinity for the way love transforms the most ordinary and imperfect people. In Lamb in Love, she celebrates a man and a woman who discover in themselves a bravery that allows them to become the heroes of their own story.
True love comes crashing into Norris Lamb's life for the first time on his 55th birthday, the summer night in 1969 when man first walked on the moon. In Brown's (Rose's Garden) pellucid second novel, it is clear which of the two events is more earth-shattering. The hapless Norris, reconciled to bachelor life as the venerable postmaster of Hursley, a small town in the English countryside, has known Vida Stephen since childhood. Now 43, kind-hearted Vida has been a devoted nanny to mute, retarded Manford Perry, the motherless son of a generally absent architect father, since his birth 20 years ago. On the auspicious night when the Apollo astronauts explore the moon's surface, Norris glimpses the nearly naked Vida dancing in the moonlight around a fountain, and his life is forever altered. A shy, unassuming man, his dilemma now is how to best express his newfound feelings. Brown eloquently explores the terrain of human interactions, showing how genuine love can exalt ordinary individuals; her work is distinguished, above all, by her talent for investing them with dignity. Most touching is her portrayal of Vida's tenderness and dedication to her disabled charge, as he suffers unintended insults from the small-minded people who ignore or disdain a handicapped person. In contrast, the surpassingly effortless way Norris and Manford take to each other illustrates Brown's obvious belief in the transcendent possibilities inherent in simple acts of thoughtfulness and compassion. The quiet humor in her characterizations of the villagers and her bemused understanding of small-town life invest the narrative with a quiet authority. This warmhearted and moving story could be a sleeper. Author tour. FYI: Bantam will release Rose's Garden in April.