As in her first novel, Rituals (1982), Sexton again writes of an intense, even corrosive mother/daughter relationship--but...



As in her first novel, Rituals (1982), Sexton again writes of an intense, even corrosive mother/daughter relationship--but this time, against an upper-Manhattan, media-celeb background, the conflicts are more hysterical than finely textured. Mira, the 14-year-old daughter of TV soap star Vivian, is sent to Dr. Eva Strauss, psychiatric consultant for the East Side Breton School: she's depressed, failing subjects since the recent death of her scientist father--and pregnant. (She ""didn't really like sex""; it just seemed the thing to do.) And, while Eva recalls her own agonies through three tragic miscarriages, Mira clings to the growing life she carries. . . until mother Vivian--who always calls the shots, molding Mira into an absolutely loyal companion/confidant/nursemaid--insists on a speedy abortion. Indeed, Vivian--self-absorbed, open about her affairs, frantic with threats to her career--brings Mira to heel again and again. Yet Mira likes ""being needed""; pressured by a still-unrecognized guilt and terror having to do with her father's death, she casts about for escape, seesaws between growing anger and Vivian's all-enclosing love. Then Vivian's demands accelerate--as she threatens to sell Mira's horse, cuts off summer camp and a visit to an ""ordinary"" family in Montauk, pulls Mira out of classes, deprives her of a new boyfriend (a greedy juvenile star). . . and continues her own restless sexual adventures, even responding to the fevered sexual demands of her daughter. So, in sessions with Eva, Mira inches toward breakdown, particularly after Vivian's lesbian infidelities. And finally, in a semi-hypnotic trance, Mira will spill out the anguished core of her guilt--was her father's heart attack (which she witnessed) an accident?--while Eva sees her own traumas also resolving. Windy emotional storms, more sensationalized than credible--with unconvincing psychology and a shrill, two-dimensional sketch of a monstrously exploitative Mommy Dearest.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 1984


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984