By JEAN THOMPSON
Published: January 13, 2012
Eileen Pollack’s new novel, “Breaking and Entering,” takes place in rural Michigan in 1995 — the epicenter and high point of the militia movement, before increased scrutiny and revulsion at the Oklahoma City bombing put some militia groups out of business and sent others underground. (Though not a militiaman, the bomber Timothy McVeigh attended their meetings and spent time on a Michigan farm with his fellow conspirator Terry Nichols.) The Oklahoma City attack comes about a third of the way through Pollack’s book, a real-world event that informs and shadows the fictional ones.
Pollack is an engaging writer with a first-rate eye for the telling sociological detail, like the Militia Babes calendar in the Banks’s farmhouse. There is tension and menace when Richard or Louise encounters some new misunderstanding or threat. But since the author’s intent is to explore intolerance, hatred and evil, it is not enough that these forces merely simmer and self-perpetuate. The stakes are raised, and escalating consequences play out.
Whatever our politics, there are times we can all feel like foreigners and outcasts in our own country, just as Louise becomes a foreigner in her own marriage. And it is Louise who carries the novel, with her good impulses, her fallibility and her wish for a transforming passion. We always hope that people can change, reassess, realign. It is fitting that Louise, at the novel’s end, provides just enough hope to bring the story home.
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