Silver Love by Layle Giusto
(Arabesque, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN: 0-7860-0495-9
****
Can two people who built mud pies together as children create a rock solid foundation for a marriage? Or, is their relationship set in quicksand? These are among the questions Layle Giusto asks us to consider in Silver Love.

As children Geoff McMillan and Sara Turner were best friends who promised to get married one day. Silver Love begins with tragic news on the eve of the McMillan's 25th wedding anniversary that forces reflection on their life together. Their story is told in flashbacks that look at three critical periods in their marriage.

As a result, Silver Love is three distinct love stories. Giusto has painstakingly crafted these vignettes into three equal parts that chronicle the beginning, middle and current stages of their marriage the infancy, adolescence and adulthood. And, as I read Silver Love, the lyrics to "Always Together," a 70s love song by the Dells came to mind.

"... I made up my mind years ago, when I first gazed upon you I'd never let you go..."

We meet Geoff and Sara in the first section. It is the late 1970s and Geoff has aimlessly extended his stay in Asia several years after the end of the Vietnam War. He receives a letter from Sara telling him she's getting engaged. Sara has obviously forgotten their childhood promise and Geoff hightails it back to the States to remind her. Although their contact has been sporadic throughout the years, they share a connectedness they can neither ignore nor deny. After a courtship that can only be described as tumultuous, Geoff and Sara marry.

"We'll have our problems, but we'll face them with pride. Our love is protection and we don't have to hide..."

The story continues 11 years, two children and a house in Scarsdale later. The McMillans are the quintessential BUMPs (Black Upwardly Mobile Professionals). Geoff is a successful financier and Sara devotes her time to community service. They appear to have it all, but there is dissension in paradise. Sara's career has taken a backseat to Geoff's, there are meddling in-laws, the pressure of family responsibilities and a crisis of confidence. As they approach their 11th anniversary the steel anniversary they seem like candidates for Glamour Magazine's "Can this marriage be saved?" section.

"...When the years have turned your hair to silver and the days of our youth have left us so very far behind, golden memories will keep in our hearts..."

After a lifetime together, Sara and Geoff are still in love. They are still personally and professionally driven. She runs a successful independent school; he has made the segue from business to politics. The children are in college. But their commuter marriage shows signs of strain. Life and love are a constant struggle, but they never lose their passion for one another or their senses of humor. It's often hard to do when the love of your life gets on your last nerve!

In Silver Love, Giusto recognizes that Baby Boomers need love too. Characters over 40 generally are relegated to secondary roles as sage grandparents, wicked stepmothers, employers, nannies or neighbors in romance novels. Or, they show up as people who get a second chance at love after recovering from divorce, trauma, illness, desertion or the death of a loved one.

But Geoff and Sara age like fine wine. They're not getting older, they're getting better. Throughout the course of their lives together, Geoff and Sara often renew, rediscover and redefine their commitment to each other.

Silver Love represents another phase in Layle Giusto's development as a writer. She has moved away from the comfortable faces and places in Queens that populated her earlier work. The humor is less physical and more subtle than in Home Fires and Something So Right. This is a more mature, full-bodied work.

History serves as a backdrop to Geoff and Sara's story. The two came of age during the turbulent 60s and married during the 70s. Geoff and Sara are products of their times. Giusto is muted in her references to the music, the war and the idealism and activism that defined the period and influenced the development of her main characters. Secondary characters evolve logically with the development of the two main characters.

Giusto also makes quiet commentary on the conspicuous consumption and corporate greed of the 80s. Intrafamily relationships between in-laws, siblings, mothers and sons and fathers and daughters are explored. Surprisingly, the novel is not heavily weighed.

Silver Love is a precious gift.

Here's a toast to Layle Giusto, and to soulmates Geoff and Sara Turner-McMillan...always together.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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