The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach, review by Shirley Wells
When two strangers find themselves buried by huge snow drifts in a remote Maine cabin, their close proximity forces an intimacy that neither initially welcomes. But their wariness turns to friendship turns to love in Bill Roorbach's The Remedy for Love, a finalist for the 2014 Kirkus Prize for Fiction.
This solid character study that is part survival story and part romance features a kind and dutiful man hanging on to a marriage that has already ended and a bright but broken woman squatting in a cabin in the woods while obsessing about her husband who is serving in Afghanistan. What is not so noticeable at first is that they are both lonely and emotionally detached, just as they are physically isolated by the snow storm. Both need rescued, not just from the storm but from themselves.
Eric is a small-town defense lawyer who happens to be in line at the grocery behind a limping, bedraggled, and painfully thin young woman who doesn't have enough cash to pay for her purchases. Playing the Good Samaritan, Eric not only offers her money but also gives her a ride, then returns again, offering his own gourmet groceries so that she will have enough supplies to ride out this “storm of the century.” Danielle is suspicious and flat-out rude, but Eric now senses a responsibility toward her which makes him feel useful and needed, even if his help is resented by this secretive young woman. As they become trapped together by the storm, their food and water supply dwindles, the cabin begins to collapse under the weight of the snow, and they are running out of firewood. And with their very existence threatened, Eric and Danielle learn to trust each other and begin to reveal their true selves, forging a strange yet wonderful intimacy.
The title of this grown-up love story is from Henry David Thoreau's observation that the only remedy for love is to love more. Whether Eric and Danielle can prove this true in spite of their flaws is what makes this an engaging read. What really elevates this edgy romantic thriller, however, is the way Roorbach uses a classic three-part structure to subtly build a basis for a relationship between these two disparate people. Roorbach's ability to inject climate change and the collateral damage of war into the story also sets it apart from your typical love story.
Referred to in the Kirkus Reviews as “the poet of hopeless tangles,” Bill Roorbach acknowledges that his latest novel is “a tangle, a ball of string, all these loose ends to pull on, everything connected, or maybe not.”