JEALOUSIES by Caroline Leavitt


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In Meeting Rozzy Halfway (1981) and Lifelines (1982), Leavitt explored some fascinating psychological complexities; here, however, she has assembled a rather pallid group of young career people (plus a rather tiresome chimp) for marathon exchanges about partner-switching, estrangements, and alliances--with tedious talk along the way about the hunger of loneliness, the need for bonding, possessing, possession. Long-orphaned Emma, rejected by her jealous mother in childhood, is newly arrived in Boston to teach sign language to apes in a primate laboratory. But then, in the train station, she meets Duncan--who's screaming and leaping at a train window behind which a woman named Zooey is about to depart, apparently forever. Emma listens eagerly to Duncan's grieving late-night outbursts. (""If people blurted out their history to you,"" somehow this created an ""indissoluble bond."") And eventually Duncan, who's a caterer, will invite Emma to share his apartment--though he's still obsessed with Zooey (about to wed Another in Texas). Much tell-me-everything bonding ensues; Emma is happy in her job, teaching female chimp Billy. (The primate work is unconvincing.) But then Duncan's best friend Barry turns up, making Emma the third wheel. . . until she does a Zooey with Zooey's red dress and cropped hair, ""pushing herself in Zooey's place,"" winding up married to Duncan. The end? Hardly. Because new alignments soon proliferate: Zooey shows up in Boston, later will die; baby Lulu is born; Emma pairs off with Barry, with lab assistant Pete; Emma's pictures have replaced Zooey's, but are they really pictures of Emma-Zooey? And before Emma sees the light and leaves Duncan--possessing and possessed, ""exorcizing one woman with another""--there'll be yards of talk about relationships from not-terribly-interesting people. A slapdash disappointment, with Leavitt using her blow-torch intensity (previously arresting) on a clutch of clinkers.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1983
Publisher: Seaview/Putnam