July 15, 2014 by Reader's Connection
That’s what I kept muttering while reading Michelle Huneven’s new novel Off Course.
Cressida Hartley would like to have been an artist, but doesn’t have the talent. To her surprise, she has a talent for economics, so that’s what she ends up studying in college. She has retreated to her parents’ A-frame up in the mountains to write her doctoral dissertation on art in the marketplace.
But the little community in the Sierras–which was supposed to turn into a resort, way back when, and never quite managed–has its own distracting culture; and Cress goes off course. One of her love affairs becomes an obsession. It was this second affair, insanely protracted, that had me muttering to Cress, and thinking This is my least favorite Michelle Huneven novel.
But guess what. I finished the novel last night, and there are scenes and characters and wild animals and a bearskin (in the trunk of Cress’s Saab) that are with me this morning. This is a strange, brave novel. Ms. Huneven took some risks, and has left me with a vivid sense of the wilds of California, of the way people are perched there, and of the ways a person–a middle-class person, educated and all that–can go off into the wilds herself.