In Robert Eaton Kelley’s novel, THE MIRAGE, set in the hallowed halls of Dartmouth College and the hollow hills of New Hampshire, nothing is as it seems for Patrick Sweeney and Fiona Faraday. When do a man and woman share more than society will sanction? When is sanity at risk because creativity offends convention and scholarship defies limits? Where is there found such revenge that holds life in the balance? When is golf a game for chameleons and tricksters? The mysteries dance and swirl across the Atlantic to the links of The Mirage by the Irish coast, an enchanted land of the imagination. In a sacred moment of confession and ultimate revelation, clarity is brought to the motives of Sweeney and Faraday, and sets the stage for their final, ultimate leap of faith.
Patrick Sweeney, professor of English at Dartmouth College, has been forced to take a leave of absence from his department, either because he is psychotic or because his creative genius has roiled the world of education. Sweeney is haunted by the suicide of his wife, Joellen, and the past denial of tenure and the disappearance of his best friend from the English department, John O’Shannon of Ireland. Into his tormented world comes Fiona Faraday, also a visiting professor from Ireland. Fiona, be she real or Faery Queen, stirs his passions and is herself secretly bent on revenge for a past sin committed at Dartmouth, a sin inextricably linked to her own intimate and personal tale of transgression. Two spirits whose encounter was foretold, Patrick and Fiona first meet at Hanover Country Club, the home golf course of Dartmouth. THE MIRAGE is both a love story and a saga of the war between the laws of academe and the laws of creativity and art, about the age-old conflict of laws that rule and laws violated.
THE MIRAGE is in the end a mythological fantasy of the mad professor, as Patrick Sweeney, madly in love, is lured to Ireland in pursuit of his fair Fiona; but it is as well for Sweeney a journey to escape the crushing spirit of his late wife, the ill-fated, Joellen, who had been an English professor, herself, at New York University, and who haunts him still. The secrets of his life with Joellen are ultimately revealed upon his return to his ancestral home.
Set at Dartmouth, the hotbed of Ivy League extremes, THE MIRAGE spotlights an academic and alumni hothouse aflame with the volatile mixture of the radical left in counterpoint to the might of the equally radical, righteous right, the self-appointed guardians of the Ivy college’s ancient traditions.
English professor, Patrick Sweeney, a creative genius smothered by the straightjacket of academic life and seemingly transformed into a deranged madman, threatens the genteel Ivy League environment, pursues creativity to its limits, beyond the imagination, beyond the pale of scholarly decorum. Irish professor, Fiona Faraday arrives as an avenging angel, a visiting professor secretly bent upon revenge against the imagined transgressions of the Dartmouth English department against her brother, only to be metamorphosed into a myth, herself, a figment of Sweeney’s desires.
Patrick Sweeney pursues Fiona Faraday in reality and in his own fantasies, while he is pursued by the spirit of his wife, Joellen. Fiona sets upon Patrick for revenge, haunted herself by a past of incest and the suicide of her own brother, John O’Shannon.
Sweeney’s and Faraday’s encounter is the tale of a profane lovefest, fodder for gossip in the circumspect college town of Hanover, NH, at once a mythological tale of lives past and lives present. As if two faery folk, Patrick and Fiona have a final fateful encounter on the links of Ireland by the Irish sea.