The year is 1994 and psychologist Richard Shapiro has accidentally burned down a California state forest. Weeks earlier, his young patient had committed suicide, and the blazing forest hastens Richard’s slide toward mental breakdown. He and his wife Louise, an exasperated school guidance counselor, decide to start their and their daughter’s lives anew in small-town Michigan. They look forward to a life of simplicity: the cornfields, the friendly neighbors, the Victorian house they renovate for a song. And those are just the opening pages of Breaking and Entering, Eileen Pollack’s utterly absorbing, juicy, and timely new novel.
But the Shapiros’ hopes for idyll quickly fade: Richard starts joining a Michigan Militia member for target practice even though the friend believes Richard will go to hell for being a Jew; Louise falls for a Unitarian minister who seems to offer everything Richard lacks; and 6-year-old Molly runs away from home without anyone noticing. Meanwhile, Louise’s liberal politics threaten her employment prospects and Molly finds graphic anti-choice propaganda strewn across their front lawn.
When the Oklahoma City bombing happens and Richard and his militia friends find themselves on the defensive we see just how enmeshed the Shapiros have become in America’s cultural and political battles, and just how high the stakes really are.
February 7, 2013