‘The Conditions of Love’6/4/2014
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Shirley Shiffler
Grand Central Publishing
Pub. Date 5/6/14
In her debut novel, “The Conditions of Love,” Midwest author Dale M. Kushner examines the changing role of love in the life of a young teen. As the story opens, we meet Eunice and her mother in a dysfunctional relationship that reminded me of the family in Jeannette Walls’ wonderful memoir, “The Glass Castle.” You find yourself wondering who the adult in the relationship is, as the child seems to do a good job of raising herself, in spite of her alcoholic, flighty, grasping mother. Her mother chooses to educate her with stories of Hollywood and glamour, rather than actually sending her to school, and, above all else, tries to instill a full-out distrust of men. Eventually Eunice realizes “I’m like her moon, I’ll always be in her orbit…I couldn’t leave her, even though only a nitwit would stay.”
When she is 15, Eunice and her mother lose each other during a flood, and Eunice is rescued by the nurturing, earth-mother, Rose. With Rose, she lives once again on the outskirts of society but learns completely different lessons about love, mainly that it has more staying power than her mother gave it credit. In Rose’s experience, if you have loved someone, you’re the good dream that person can have again and again.
Eventually, Eunice is discovered by the authorities and is put into foster care, where she catches the eye of a much older man and experiences her first feelings of romantic love. Creep factor aside (she’s 16; he’s in his early 30s), it is soon apparent that she will never be a typical high school girl, and she leaves with him to discover where this love will take them. CV
Shirley Shiffler grew up in Urbandale, graduated from Drake University and lives in Beaverdale.