by Walter Kirn
It’s a twisted, election-year version of “meeting cute.” The scene is a Midwestern abortion clinic. He, Weaver Walquist, is a 26-year-old member of the fanatical pro-life group the Conscience Squad. She, Kim (née Agnes) Lindgren, is a 23-year-old, cigarette-smoking, pregnant junior-college dropout trying to enter the clinic. The Conscience Squad’s protest turns into a miniriot. Kim is hurt in the scuffle. Weaver goes to her aid. Naturally they will fall in love.
Kirn’s followers will recognize in his first novel the same deadpan voice and dead-on vision that characterized his 1990 story collection, My Hard Bargain. But this time Kirn manages to skewer—or maybe barbecue—even larger chunks of the modern American dream. Is Weaver a true believer or has he—as his widowed mother, a liquor store owner, suspects—simply been brainwashed? Are he and Kim really in love, or do they just need each other to complete their respective morality plays?
Kirn addresses these and other questions without cynicism—and occasionally manages a beautifully turned phrase (“Swaying and tipping on the high-heel shoes like a suicide on a windy ledge…”). And while the narrative sometimes loses momentum, Kirn and his sympathetic portrait of contemporary confusion deserve a warm welcome. We need them. (Pocket, $20)