by Joy Fielding ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 1981
Though billed as a novel about ""child-snatching"" by divorced parents, the first (and much better) half of this solid, TV-movie-style soap/melodrama consists of flashbacks--from a custody hearing--to scenes from a rotten marriage. The doomed, mid-30s couple here is Victor and Donna Cressy of Palm Beach, Fla. And Fielding (Trance, The Best of Friends) does a reasonably convincing job, mostly through extensive, painful-funny dialogue, of tracing a familiar road to wifely misery and divorce: the initial sexual attraction, the birth of son Adam, the arguments; dictatorial Victor's increasingly obsessive demands, with fights over tomato sauce vs. tomato paste in the shepherd's pie (a large debt here to Diary of a Mad Housewife and others); the destruction of Donna's self-confidence, her retreat from life and sex (except for a husbandly rape after a nightmare-party, which produces baby Sharon); Donna's affair with warm, divorced Dr. Mel Segal (""There were men around who were content to let you dress yourself, feed yourself, and even blow your own nose""). So there's a divorce and a grueling custody hearing, after which Donna gets the children--despite testimony on her erratic behavior and her affair. And, moving in with Mel and his little daughter, Donna and her kids are doing fine, with cordial visits from ex-hubby Victor--till one day he takes the kids for the weekend. . . and disappears with them. The rest of the book, then, is disappointingly thin and contrived: Donna's reaction, at first hysterical, which endangers her relationship with patient yet un-saintly Mel; the hands-off policy of the police (it's ""legal kidnapping""); sadistic phone-calls from villain Victor; and a dubious search through California--culminating in a car-chase ordeal and a tear-jerk finale when Donna spots the kids in a supermarket and grabs them. Happily, Fielding doesn't bury her tiny story in maudlin, purple prose. Neither, however, does she make Donna much more than the usual cardboard victim. Ultimately, then, despite the welcome comic edge in the first half, this is only passable divorce fiction--without the wit or class of Kramer vs. Kramer, and much better suited to TV-viewing than reading.
Pub Date: March 6, 1981
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1981
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