This intelligent new novel by well known author C.W. Smith examines the process by which a decent and well- meaning young woman makes a moral error with tragic consequences. Twenty-six year old Susan is the kind of teacher every student falls for, in one way or another. She's beautiful, kind, sympathetic - a pal. And she teaches art, where her creative approach and candor have endeared her to all. Her personal life is something else, however, as her biological clock ticks on and boyfriend Curt shows no signs of wanting marriage, and even less of wanting kids.
When seventeen-year-old transfer student, Jeff Robbins walks into her art club meeting one night, Susan is transfixed by his good looks, palpable shyness and obvious admiration.
The story that results displays C.W. Smith's exceptional sense of detail in the service of character as he reveals every nuance of their developing relationship and the mistakes that propel it.
As he has demonstrated in his previous fiction, Smith profoundly understands the pressures at work as adolescent males attempt to comprehend themselves and the world. Never has he created a more sympathetic young man than Jeff, deeply infatuated, forced by circumstance into a nurturing role at home, disturbingly at risk from the intensity of his emotions. What may be more surprising, however, is Smith's stunning ability to inhabit the skin of Susan, a young woman whose lack of a moral compass combined with good intentions sets off a chain of events whose conclusion even she cannot foresee.
Interwoven throughout the story is the image of The Annunciation, the subject of Susan's long overdue art history thesis, as she attempts to use it to reveal the many disguises we apply to the power of sexual passion.
Beautifully written, with Smith's usual sharp ear for the fine points of colloquial usage, Gabriel's Eye is a compelling read that will deeply reward every reader with an appetite for thoughtful, moving fiction.
C. W. SMITH is Professor of English at Southern Methodist University and the author of six novels, including most recently Understanding Women. His short stories have appeared in Mademoiselle, Vision, Southwest Review, Sunstone Review, Carolina Quarterly, Quartet, Cimarron Review, American Literary Review, American Short Fiction, The Missouri Review and other magazines. A collection of stories, Letters From the Horse Latitudes, was published in 1994. His autobiographical book dealing with children after a divorce, originally published in hardcover by Putnam was reprinted in paper by Berkley in 1989 under the author's original title: Uncle Dad.Among his numerous awards, Smith has twice received the Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Novel from the Texas Institute of Letters; the Southwestern Library Association Award for Best Novel; the Dobie-Paisano Fellowship from the University of Texas; two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships; the Texas Headliner's Feature Story award; the Frank O'Connor Memorial Short Story Award from Quartet magazine; the John H. McGinnis Short Story Award from Southwest Review; and the Stanley Walker Award for Journalism from the Texas Institute of Letters. He is married and lives in Dallas.