breaking and entering

Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

3 of 17
Breaking and Entering
384 pages; Four Way
In her novel Breaking and Entering, Eileen Pollack delves beneath the surface of blue state/red state stereotypes and brilliantly portrays an America made up of "smaller countries" with polarizing politics and alienated citizens. Richard Shapiro, a therapist, and his wife, Louise, leave Northern California and move to southwest Michigan in 1995, several months before Timothy McVeigh blows up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The Shapiros have fled to Michigan to start over following the suicide of one of Richard's patients, a woman he secretly loved. Richard begins working at the local prison, a breeding ground for racism among guards and inmates. Louise becomes a social worker at the high school, where a janitor broadcasts vitriol as "Michigan Mike, the Voice of the Militia." The Shapiros' neighbors, also proud members of the paramilitary group, host an annual Tax Blast, using 1040 forms as shooting targets. When, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, news surfaces that McVeigh had attended a militia meeting at the neighbors' farm, it becomes increasingly difficult to know who's harmless and who's not. Louise tells herself that she "can distinguish among the scents of her enemies and her friends, of safety and disaster, of passion, hate, and love," even as the lines of loyalty blurin her community and her marriage.
— Judy Bolton-Fasman