A CIRCLE OF EARTH
Set in Alabama between and following the two world wars, A Circle of Earth tells the story of two characters’ attempts to find happiness in a world where both lives and marriages are defined not by choice but by circumstance. At age seventeen Emma walks blindly into a marriage that is not a love match. Her plight becomes the attempt to exist within the confines of this relationship. The limitations of Henry’s world are uniquely cruel, as he has a searching and eager mind. The effects of the Great Depression worsen his situation, resulting in his placement in the state mental hospital, where he forms an unlikely bond with a young psychiatrist–a Northerner of whom he asks “if Levy had ever loved a woman. Loved her so that the lobe of an ear or the shape of her mouth were little sights to almost hurt a man's heart.”
Although A Circle of Earth is a distinctly Southern novel, its events could have taken place anywhere in the rural America of its time. There were certainly similar attitudes, similar cultural traditions, elsewhere. Its themes are universal: the naive young bride trapped in an unwise and loveless marriage, the individual whose dreams and given talents are thwarted by circumstance. There are issues explored that belong to no certain place: the making of a family, the tragedy of alcoholism, for example. A Circle of Earth is a family saga; it also contains a love story–not one, but several. For the two main characters, their love stories happen to be the story of their marriages, one of which is anything but a romance. In present-day women’s fiction, it is not often that we see an exploration of the universals intentionally set in a past-time setting. Weil feels that in the pre-technology world, people had more direct impact on each other–cause and effect were critical in a way that they are not today. This novel is an undeniable nostalgia piece. It could also be read as an American Historical. Its themes are the central human issues, from the view of a certain time and place.
In an exceptionally poetic and circuitous weaving of narrative lines, Patricia Weil pens an intimate tale connecting two distinct families, the Grays and the Griffens, in a situation of economical and emotional need.
The intensity of free-flowing emotions delineates the struggle to define existence in this twisting and bending chronicle of characters, which culminates in a shared and touching anecdote that reaches every part of humanity.
--San Francisco Book Review