Ivory Bright
Viking Penguin, 1986

Ivory Bright, Elaine Ford’s brilliant and unsettling new novel, is about romantic obsession; about the adjustments—both minute and profound—that living with another person requires; about the dealing with the consequences of one’s choices. Ivory Bright is odd, reclusive, thirtyish. She runs a chaotic toy store, but some fear of losing things makes her reluctant to sell her toys and games.

Ray Bartlett is a middle-aged life insurance manager at a bank. He lives with his housekeeper in a rambling stucco house not far from Ivory’s neighborhood, but worlds apart in respectability. Ivory wants Ray—and succeeds in marrying him. It is Ford’s particular genius that the odds against Ray and Ivory seem extreme and yet no more so than the odds in any love. In Ivory Bright she has created characters both dark and moving, characters impossible to forget.

Praise and Reviews

Ford’s pan-outs on the iron slush and tinkling plumbing of old Somerville are marvelous, in this human comedy where people play out their games of solitaire, forgetting the joker in the pack.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In her two previous novels, Elaine Ford began to establish a career fashioning quiet fictions about young working-class women in the grittier neighborhoods of her hometown, Somerville, Mass. Ivory Bright, her sharpest work, is a tight, competent novel, brimming with detail. It’s an exploration of missed perceptions, human awkwardness and the survival of fragile hope…. The characters are genuine, never sentimentalized.
New York Times

Elaine Ford’s eye for detail is one of the great delights of this novel…. Her finely tuned ear makes the storyline, told from the points of view of the three main characters, flow smoothly. Yet this is not a smooth, delightful novel. It is disturbing reading, told with wit, candor and very little sentimentality. Elaine Ford has taken everyday characters from the streets of Boston and created believable lives for them. Lives that are ordinary yet unusual; lives that are eccentric yet mundane; lives that could be “but for the grace of God,” our own. In Ivory Bright we can see a bit of ourselves, and that bit makes us shudder.
San Diego Tribune

Enchantment, Ford reveals, can isolate us from each other as well as soften the claims reality makes. Like the most compelling fables, this one finds magic—both dark and light—contained within the ordinary. It touches us by exploring the fragile balance between them and by the affection with which it describes the windmill motions we often have to make to keep from falling onto one side or the other.
Chicago Tribune

Ivory Bright shows relationships in motion, the jockeying of characters led by love, jealousy and the lust to possess one another. Ford reveals these maneuvers with a sure, true hand, cutting close to the bone. But these relationships evolve on another level—a shadowy sphere with elements of witchcraft… Ford tells her story in a cool and distant way. For instance, it was ice, “or perhaps a piece of garbage” on a shoe, that caused a fatal accident. Struggles between characters are couched in polite conversation. No characters cry in Ivory Bright, but there is tragedy in a doctor’s question. Cries are like trees falling, soundlessly. There is no crash, but Ford makes us imagine the ruined vegetation and the luckless creatures crushed by the blow. It is this hushed power that pulls us deep into Ivory Bright and keeps the story with us long after the final page.
San Francisco Chronicle