TENDER OFFER by Alexandra Marshall
Kirkus Star

TENDER OFFER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With the same glinting dialogue and inner monologues which spiraled around the subject of death in Gus in Bronze (1977), Marshall here makes some witty connections between female role-playing and playing for marbles in the world of business. Phoebe Newcomb, 50, is founder and president of Phoebe's Fudge, a Connecticut company gone public, which suddenly becomes the target of a raid by a monster conglomerate, Synthetic Technologies Corporation. Syncorp is licking its lucite chops for Phoebe's Fudge; after all, it boasts an all-natural product, a solid distribution system, no union (the loyal employees have fine benefits plus a swimming pool on the premises), and handsome profits. Outraged, Phoebe, at top efficiency, sets out to foil Syncorp (""The worst brought out the best in her""). But while Phoebe begins the process--locking in shares, company members, and investors; placing ads; being interviewed (""giving rounded answers to pointed questions"")--the new challenges, to her dismay, begin to take on the contours of old female bugaboos. Where, for instance, did mother Phoebe, long ago divorced, go wrong with her kids? There's passive Alice who just loves being pregnant and can't get excited about Phoebe's emergency. Worse, there's Roger, angry and hostile, himself an absentee father to his five-year-old boy; Roger wants out from under Mother, and just might sell his shares to Syncorp to buy the boat he's always wanted. And what about the paternal power-drive of Phoebe's old adviser, 75-year-old Henry Page? Or the weakness that impels Phoebe to call yet another man, her off-and-on lover, famed designer Barth Hoffman, in the night? Phoebe's ""corporate and corporeal selves"" seem to merge: both Phoebe's Fudge and Phoebe are at their ""prime,"" ripe for the taking; answering aggression is exhilarating. (""I need Nixon staffers, not nice guys; I need sadists, not decent people; I need killers."") However, after the battle shouts and agonizing family scenes and overcoming the fear of loving and desiring Barth, Phoebe investigates and meditates on the nature of mergers (instead of rape), finally understanding in her personal life the ""liberation"" of equal give and take. With many bright glimpses of the methods of titanic takeovers and answering blasts from their targets--an amusing, nimble commentary on the sexual whammy pervading business power-clusters.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf