Fiction by Frederick Busch
Set in rural New England, Frederick Busch’s powerful yet subtle second novel, Manual Labor, explores the collapse and renewal of a contemporary marriage. Phil and Anne Sorenson––both in their own ways emotionally or physically crippled––search for an equilibrium in the rebuilding of an abandoned farmhouse that becomes a paradigm of their lives. Presented by several voices, principally those of the husband and wife, the novel is rooted in the American gothic tradition of Melville and Hawthorne. Having come in a circle to the East, to the coast of Maine, the Soresons’ journey suggests that of early American settlers who came at last to the sea. Of ultimate importance, however, are domestic love and the insistence, finally, upon surviving history without denying it.