Reviews of Lamb in Love
Brown takes such care with these simple people's hopes and fears that before we know it, their luminary love seems as wondrous as anything else on earth, or beyond.
--The Christian Science Montior
...[U]nconventional and eloquent...."You have to have imagination to love anybody," Vita concludes, as you do to write a novel as magical and satisfying as Brown's.
--The New York Times Book Review
Middle-aged postal worker Norris Lamb falls madly in love with Vida Stephen, nanny to the disabled son of a wealthy American in an English village. The problem is that they barely know each other, and Lamb agonizes over exactly how to reveal his feelings without making a fool of himself. Both Lamb and Vida are innocents, consumed by family and job responsibilities, and know nothing of romance. As in Brown's previous novel, Rose's Garden (LJ 2/1/98), the characterization is beautifully done, with thoughtful, introspective players; the landscape is lovely; and the tale bittersweet. However, unlike its predecessor, the novel moves at a careful pace in order to allow the characters to develop fully. For fans of the character-driven fiction of Anne Tyler and Reynolds Price.
Brown's story feels as if it were written on the eve of the 20th century, not the 21st. In part, this charming, old-fashioned flavor derives from her premise: We are told on the second page that Norris 'has been struck by love for Vida.' Unlike many modern novels, which culminate in love only after the writer has dutifully proven one character's desire for another, Lamb in Love begins with Norris's heart's conclusion.
--Time Out New York
True love comes crashing into Norris Lamb's life for the first time on his 55th birthday, the summer night in 1969 when man first walked on the moon. In Brown's (Rose's Garden) pellucid second novel, it is clear which of the two events is more earth-shattering. The hapless Norris, reconciled to bachelor life as the venerable postmaster of Hursley, a small town in the English countryside, has known Vida Stephen since childhood. Now 43, kind-hearted Vida has been a devoted nanny to mute, retarded Manford Perry, the motherless son of a generally absent architect father, since his birth 20 years ago. On the auspicious night when the Apollo astronauts explore the moon's surface, Norris glimpses the nearly naked Vida dancing in the moonlight around a fountain, and his life is forever altered. A shy, unassuming man, his dilemma now is how to best express his newfound feelings. Brown eloquently explores the terrain of human interactions, showing how genuine love can exalt ordinary individuals; her work is distinguished, above all, by her talent for investing them with dignity. Most touching is her portrayal of Vida's tenderness and dedication to her disabled charge, as he suffers unintended insults from the small-minded people who ignore or disdain a handicapped person. In contrast, the surpassingly effortless way Norris and Manford take to each other illustrates Brown's obvious belief in the transcendent possibilities inherent in simple acts of thoughtfulness and compassion. The quiet humor in her characterizations of the villagers and her bemused understanding of small-town life invest the narrative with a quiet authority. This warmhearted and moving story could be a sleeper.
A charmingly old-fashioned account of small-town romance by former journalist-turned-novelist Brown (Rose’s Garden, 1998). In the summer of 1969, despite the moon landing, the little English village of Hursley is still in many regards closer to feudalism than to the space age. Sleepy, picturesque, and compact, it’s a place defined by familiarity and routine, and guided by the certainty that nothing in life is unprecedented. But Norris Lamb, a middle-aged bachelor who serves as postmaster of Hursley and organist of St. Alphage Parish Church, has discovered to his amazement that the world can change — not because of the Apollo mission, but because he has fallen in love: “You’ve been awakened, Norris Lamb, he says to himself, after a long sleep, as it were, a sleep that might have, save for Providence’s intervention, gone on forever.” The woman who has awakened these feelings is Vida Stephen, a local spinster who looks after the mentally retarded son of a well-to-do architect. An innocent with no experience whatsoever in dealing with women, Norris is at something of a loss as to how he should press his suit, but he eventually hits upon an appropriate (for a postmaster) solution: anonymous love letters. Having friends in the trade, so to speak, Norris is able to get his letters posted from abroad, and so Vida begins to receive testimonies from a secret admirer who apparently lives in Greece, Egypt, and any number of exotic locales. The coincidence is that Vida’s artsy Uncle Laurence lives in Corfu, and Vida is thinking of moving there herself. By the time she finds out who Norris really is, in fact, she has already packed and bought her ticket. Has Norris lost his final chance? Or will his life change even more radically than he imagined? With men walking on the moon, there’s no telling where the realm of possibility ends. Engaging, coy, and surprisingly effective.
Excerpt from Lamb in Love