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by Barbara Hall

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86319-7
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A rape trial is the unlikely cause of a reunion among three troubled friends.

When Nora’s former college roommate Simone offers to pay for a plane ticket if Nora will meet her in New Orleans for a week of fun, it seems like a good idea. Thirty-seven-year-old Nora has recently separated from her husband, who’s skipped town (one step ahead of the tax men) with his young girlfriend, and she could use a vacation. That’s not, however, exactly what she gets. It turns out that Simone, now a well-known food critic, has summoned Nora and Poppy (the other roommate) to keep her on an even keel while she testifies against the man who raped her a year ago, when she was in town writing a piece on “romantic New Orleans.” This is the first Nora and Poppy have heard about the incident, and as they endure the trial, the three women get reacquainted and struggle with their individual demons. Nora is sympathetic, though too overwhelmed by her own recent troubles to provide unconditional support; Poppy, a wealthy New Orleans native, is now deeply into religion and proposes that Simone’s rape is part of God’s will—and she implies, furthermore, that her friend may be lying. Indeed, Simone’s story starts to unravel during the course of the trial. Thrown into the mix is Leo, an ethics teacher by day and cabbie by night who rescues Nora from a potential mugging and then turns out to be Poppy’s high-school sweetheart. As the trial winds down, Poppy becomes increasingly unhinged (insisting there is a baby buried in the cellar of her ancestral home), and Nora toys with Leo as she comes to terms with her failed marriage. The story’s not high on the narrative-excitement scale, but Hall (Close to Home, 1997, etc.) compensates for that with a convincing depiction of three women at midlife, atoning for past mistakes and tentatively moving forward.

An engaging tale, enhanced by its moody, threatening New Orleans setting.