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'Chasing Jordan': Heidi Boehringer delivers an entertaining and unpredictable read



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``Chasing Jordan'' by Heidi Boehringer; Serpent's Tail ($15)

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Heidi Boehringer's debut novel is a voyeuristic look at how a mother copes with the loss of her child and whether a marriage can survive such a tragedy.

Boehringer creates a compelling premise for a page-turning narrative: Distracted by the vision of her husband ogling a neighbor, Meg O'Hara runs her SUV over her 3-year-old son and kills him. What follows is a freewheeling plot coupled with an unusual look into a grieving mother's psyche. Meg's life unravels, and we're along for the ride.

Within days of Jordan's funeral, Meg is guzzling wine, breastfeeding her infant daughter, battling nightmares and trying to gain the courage to drive again. She also is obsessing over whether her husband, Paul, is cheating on her with the neighbor. Meg's struggle for salvation leads her down a destructive path. She quits her job and fills her days with boozing, fakes her daughter's illness at cancer support groups and considers an affair.

Boehringer uses raw language to illustrate the chasm in the intimacy of Meg's marriage. Meg begins to resent life, the same way her mother did after a car accident that killed Meg's brother and father when she was a child. But it is the comfort she gets from her baby daughter, Madeline, that makes Meg compelling.

Meg barely has time to come to grips with her deteriorating marriage before Boehringer throws her into an absurd situation. Meg becomes obsessed over how another women copes with the loss of her husband.

Maddie and I lounge around Paige's house almost every day now,'' Meg confesses.I've started packing lunch and cooking it in her kitchen. ... Yesterday, I almost left one of my blonde hairs on her dark blue bedspread when we lay down for a rest. I must confess, I've become a bit of a snoop.''

Boehringer has even more emotional conflict in store for Meg when she battles with her husband for her daughter, her new love interest by her side.

The plot is easy to follow, yet some of the characters and the reasons for their behavior are not fully developed. Still, local author Boehringer delivers an entertaining and unpredictable read in her fearless look at a despairing mother.

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(c) 2005, The Miami Herald. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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