In his sixth novel, Powers's antagonists are a 42-year-old real estate broker and a corporation. Divorcee Laura Bodey lives with her 17-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in Lacewood, Illinois. The story of her relations with her kids, her work, her ex, a married boyfriend, and contraction of ovarian cancer is told in tandem with the history of Clare Soap and Chemical, whose roots go back to Boston in 1830 and progress through wars, labor struggles, economic downturns, and growth into a multinational conglomerate. With his usual vast knowledge and research, Powers touches on railroads, expositions, ad campaigns; takes passing swipes at telemarketers and brand naming. The text is more sober than in his earlier books -- there's less wordplay. For all the intellection, the relations between Laura and her kids are well drawn and deeply felt.
This report prepared by David Loftus