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Local Deities, A Book Review

By Ed Mead

I've just finished reading a very good novel. And because the experience was so enjoyable, I would like to share a taste of it in the hopes that you, too, will read this book. The novel is Local Deities, written by Agnes Bushell and published in 1990 by Curbstone Press (321 Jackson St., Willimantic, CT 06226). While the paperback version lists for $11.95, I ordered my copy through the state library system for free.

Local Deities first came to my attention some six months ago, when reading an article in the radical press in which both the author and Ray Levasseur claimed that the book was not about Ray or the underground revolutionary organization he was a part of at the time of his arrest. I decided I'd read the book and form my own opinion.

I had some long talks with Ray and several of his co-defendants about l8 months ago, when I was back East testifying for them at the Ohio-7 conspiracy trial. I read much of the literature produced during the period and listened to their histories in some detail. There is no question in my mind but what Local Deities is in part based upon the people and armed actions leading to the trial that is the real basis for the book.

I would not be recommending this novel to you if it was just another trial story, or one of the predictable arguments for or against revolution, or if it was about political heroes ('live like him"). Rather, it is a story about love and friendship, about doubt and hope. And while it is written against the familiar backdrop of the ongoing conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, there is no hint of a conclusion or political message. Those are for the reader to draw. What does come through, and comes through in a way that caused me, at various times, to both laugh and cry, is the warm insights into the dynamics of friendship, and the power of love.

Politically correct this book is not. The story unfolds through the eyes of two women, early identifiers with feminist principles (1972), both close friends. One is married to a man who becomes an attorney, the other falls in love with a revolutionary and goes off with him to initiate the armed struggle. Each subsequently has children, one family above ground with all the trappings associated with being the wife of a busy attorney who serves the poor; the other family raising their children underground, while on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Some ten years after the two friends separate, the revolutionary husband (along with his three children) is caught, while his wife remains underground. The lawyer agrees to represent his old friend (the revolutionary), a defense committee is formed, and old friendships are re-established on new levels and take on different forms. New questions come to the surface, such as the welfare of the children - who they are and how they are impacted by 10 years of living an underground life.

If you are at all interested in radical politics, criminal law, and the personal and sexual relationships of the people involved in them, then read this book. But don't expect political enlightenment.

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