One day, Louise's mother disappears, leaving only a cryptic note that reads "Louise knows how to work the washing machine." Abandoned along with her father, Louise grows up preoccupied with the idea of love, and becomes infatuated with the new neighbours: first with the mother, Mrs. Richter, and then Abel, the shy, sensitive boy the family has adopted. Louise continues to be obsessed with him even after they move away, and their paths cross again as they grow to adulthood. But Louise can't let go of her lofty notions of love, and Abel can't live up to them. It may sound sad, but Barbara Gowdy brings insight and humour to this story of a doomed relationship.
From the book
Life is oblivion erupting, for a brief moment, into nonoblivion in order so that oblivion may proclaim... "I am." The assumption being, that living things are aware enough to make such a proclamation. Let us suppose that they are. Let us suppose that they are, to a degree, self-aware. This makes for the possibility of life recognizing itself, yes, but not as oblivion, only as life. In order for life to recognize itself as a fleeting pulse of oblivion, self-awareness, must be refined into pure awareness, which is observation unimpaired by either ego or preconceptions.
From The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy ©2003. Published by HarperCollins.