THE MARRIAGE BED by Constance Beresford-Howe
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The third of Beresford-Howe's Canadian portraits (cf. The Book of Eye, A Population of One) is perhaps the least distinctive--yet another deserted-housewife diversion--but it's a fresh, wise-cracking, cheerfully noisy affair. Anne Graham, recently deserted by husband Ross (for his waif-ish secretary Larine, a commune-dweller), is monstrously pregnant and already the mother of two: hellion toddler Martha, whose endearments to her doll are along the lines of ""Bugger you, Cindy""; and that placid small pudding, one-year-old Hugh. So now Anne, floundering between rage and misery, waddles through her days. She entertains her unbearable mother-in-law at elegant tea (the cat bites Grandma and Martha deposits something nasty 'neath the table); she has happy hour with her unmotherly mother Billie (whose second husband is Max, Anne's teenage fantasy-spouse); and she visits such neighbors as TV-addict Junie, perfect Margaret (""the kind of woman who sewed on buttons before they fell off""), liberated but lonely unwed-mother Jennifer, and jolly career-woman Bonnie. Everyone has advice on Anne's predicament, but she turns down any plan to leave her children with a ""stranger,"" for job or vacation. And, after being lusted after by two randy neighbors, she zeroes in on what she wants: her husband. So there's a reconciling confrontation at the commune--climaxed by a wildly successful, hilarious birthing. True, there are also a few dutifully somber notes here: Anne reevaluates her feelings about Max and has an illuminating memory of her father. But the strong appeal is in the good-natured, anti-trendy boosting of Home (""This is where it's all at, not out there"") and the rousing, funny picture of domestic chaos. . . complete with a tumult of tots whose comic awfulness is utterly convincing.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1981
Publisher: St. Martin's