LISA, LISA by Béatrice Shalit


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 Goodness knows, there's a passel of domestic furor and flurry within this novel's Jewish/French family, who are gathered for a wedding--but somehow the fuss and feathers have no more emotional depth than the plink-plunk of a rapid badminton volley. Leo, father of writer Sarah and Lisa, is apparently dying of cancer. But, now, along with his daughters and grandchildren--15 year-old JosÇ and nine-year-old Miriam--he's attending the wedding of a relative of an old friend and fellow concentration camp inmate. Also around is Luc, estranged husband of Sarah; Luc is living with another woman. Absent is Jeanne, Leo's ex-wife, who left him over 30 years ago. The narrations of JosÇ and Luc and Sarah alternate and reflect and comment. Why are Sarah and Luc on the outs? One's interest in this matter wanes as explanations increase, but it all has something to do with Sarah's lack of interest in Luc's work and his lack of interest in hers. Meanwhile, JosÇ feels he needs to stir up things and pretends he's sneaking heroin; and Miriam, overhearing a conversation, thinks she's not really Luc's daughter and runs away. (Miriam's a precocious pain; she had once eaten rat poison when feeling rejected.) Then Luc is seen toying with a gun--and word comes that Jeanne is returning. How will Lisa take this, who's never forgiven the mother's she's never seen? Is Leo really dying? Throughout there are remarks about how thrillingly lively this family is. Certainly there's plenty of activity, but no player with any substance. French writer Shalit's fifth novel--and first US publication--is an accomplished soap-script that needs fleshing out.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-345-37339-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992