A New York Times Notable Book
Louise Kirk learns about love and loss at an early age. When she is nine years old, her former beauty queen mother disappears, leaving a note that reads only—and incorrectly—"Louise knows how to work the washing machine." Soon after, the Richters and their adopted son, Abel, move in across the street. Louise's immediate devotion to the exotic, motherly Mrs. Richter is quickly transferred to her nature-loving, precociously intelligent son.
From this childhood friendship evolves a love that will bind Louise and Abel for the rest of their lives. Though Abel moves away, Louise's attachment becomes ever more fixed as she grows up. Separations are followed by reunions, but with every turn of their fractured relationship, Louise discovers that she cannot get Abel to love her as fiercely and exclusively as she loved him. Only when Louise comes face to face with another great loss is she finally forced to confront the costs of abandoning herself to another.
Skillfully interweaving the stories of Louise and Abel at different ages, Barbara Gowdy has produced a powerful exploration of the many incarnations of love: a motherless daughter who yearns to be adopted; a husband eternally linked to a wife who has left him; a girl bewitched by the peculiar boy next door; a woman who refuses to let go of a magnetic, elusive man. The Romantic is a story about love in all its exquisite variations.