There have been quite a few more-or-less comic first novels about young, bright suburban daughters with parent-and-lover...

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ALICE IN BED

There have been quite a few more-or-less comic first novels about young, bright suburban daughters with parent-and-lover problems--and it often seems here that Schine has given her wisecracking heroine a mysterious illness just to distinguish her from all those similar others. Alice Brody, a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, collapses one day, can't walk, spends a month in her parents' bed, then goes into the hospital--where the doctors can't figure out why her hips seem to be disintegrating. Alice is in near-constant pain; the hospital staff is a disaster (two private nurses are soon hired); meanwhile, Alice's West-port-Jewish parents are in the midst of divorce plans, with father away much of the time in Canada. (Does he have a floozy there?) And, while Alice flashes back to assorted, faintly engaging childhood/adolescence episodes, her only pleasure comes from the visits of two offbeat, oral, hospital-bed lovers: dapper, fruity, 60-year-old ophthalmologist Dr. Davis; and Israeli hypnotist Simchas, a quack with credentials. (""My parents pay you eighty bucks so I can give you a blow job."") Then, however, after contradictory diagnoses by specialists (Dr. Onnen suggests hip removal; Dr. O'Solomon, author of Cement and the Orthopod, is baffled), Alice improves somewhat--and is off to the Manhattan Institute for intensive rehabilitation. The tone at the Institute is relentlessly gung-ho: ""Let's roll!"" cry the therapists, arriving with wheelchairs. The affairs pall, especially after unsuccessful tries at intercourse and the awareness that Simchas is also dallying with Alice's mother. But Alice improves little by little, finds a new sex-partner in languid, crippled surfer-type Christopher (""lovelier than Robert Redford""). So eventually Alice is walking, first with canes, then even better after hip surgery--and though she's depressed for a while (""Nostalgia for the hospital. Pathetic""), she's last seen, resigned to Father's remarriage, on the brink of romance with yet another doctor. First-novelist Schine never really seems to decide how to treat Alice's illness: it's neither fully involving as a genuine ordeal nor effective as a metaphor for emotional paralysis. And the result is a fitfully funny, stylish, unevenly toned debut (bits of farce, black-comedy, sit-com, and psycho-drama)--with the medical-crisis details most often used, one feels, to distract from the essential shallowness of the slight, mildly amusing post-adolescent material here.

Pub Date: May 16, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983