The Republic of Love
Work and Love; Love and Work. ”The two good Freudian anchors” as a character in Carol Shields’ The Republic of Love calls them. The novel is about both, with a greater emphasis, quite rightly, on the one that holds more interest for most of us. Better still, it is about that most appealing and most disturbing aspect of romantic love — the idea that there is one person out there meant for each of us and that when we meet him or her there will be a moment of simultaneous recognition.
Although Fay McLeod, a folklorist whose specialty is mermaids, and Tom Avery, a talk-radio host, live across the street from each other in Winnipeg, they don’t meet until the middle of the novel. Shields spends the first half establishing their desperate longing to love and to be loved. She does so with attention to detail, great humor, and an impressive ability to control and heighten tension. The book’s climax is the first meeting. Unfortunately, the second half of the book is less satisfying. When the obstacles in the path of true love seem homemade, we are bound to lose sympathy for lovers who allow them to remain there. B+