Review: A Shooting Star

shooting starSabrina Castro is the wealthy and attractive wife of a Pasadena physician and also the offspring of a transplanted New England family that found wealth but never a sense of purpose. Life begins to unravel for Sabrina after twelve years of childless marriage as a “trophy” wife when she takes a vacation in Mexico and has an affair with a married man.
Torn between her New England family rectitude and her frustrations, she confesses her affair and yet refuses to utterly break it off, until she sees the other husband for who he is, one who won’t sacrifice his family but wants a bit of something “on the side”. Meanwhile the marriage continues to unravel and with this, Sabrina’s life as she goes on an alcoholic binge, ends up sheltering in the home of a Tahoe dog-boarder, and finally comes home to her mother’s house and the conflicts within her own family.

Underneath it all is the emptiness of Sabrina’s life, rich, and idle, barren (until she discovers she is pregnant by the errant husband) and purposeless. She reconnects with her good friend, Barbara and her husband Leonard, who have worked their way up from poverty to respectable middle-class life in a new suburban community nearby. The book title comes from an evening spent with this family watching a meteor shower and seems a kind of metaphor for the question of her life–will she spectacularly flame out and fade?

The story moves between discovery and despair as she grope to re-establish some kind of relationship with her aging mother separated from her husband early in the marriage, her ambitious brother who would turn the family land into a subdivision of tract homes, and her husband with whom she fails to reconcile. The story reaches a climax on the night Barbara gives birth, Sabrina sits her other children, and Leonard comes home to a drunken and distraught Sabrina. I will leave it to the reader to discover whether Sabrina flames out or survives and what this means for those around her.

The story, set in the late 1950s, explores the discontents of those who have achieved the American dream yet found it wanting. At another level, Stegner as a writer of “place”, explores the changing landscape driven by car culture with its attendant freeways, suburban sprawl, growing pollution, and the destruction of natural habitats to make way for tract homes. While this latter element is in the backdrop, it also reveals the illusions and follies of the American dream and its inability to give us either good purposes or good places.

One thought on “Review: A Shooting Star

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: August 2014 « Bob on Books

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