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A steady, searching look at the clash and friendship and bone-deep interaction among three roommates at a women's college in 1961--which could be 1951, or maybe 1921, given the college's timeless self-containment and the general faith in order, tradition, and the ultimate relevance of classic verities. Ann, whose point of view we get, is the ""ordinary"" one, with a secure background: thoughtful and tentative and uncomfortable with her roommates' confrontations, she is a classics major who turns to Homer for understanding in time of grief. Intense, contentious, defiant Niki, a determined player-to-win who's also determinedly tough and cynical, is perpetually at odds with solid, certain, hard-working Hildy--who doesn't just ""believe"" in the harsh moral absolutes of her farm upbringing, she ""knows."" Hildy also knows how to play volleyball as it should be played, as a team and according to a structure of rules, and she proves an able freshman coach when she and Niki, with their opposite outlooks and constant conflict, begin to shape up a team that will go on to defeat the sophomores, juniors, and seniors. These serious young women are dead serious about volleyball, and much of this story of their relationship takes place on the court. Much of the rest occurs in their room; and though Niki at one point goes off for a Columbia weekend coldly determined to cast off her virginity, this event occurs offstage and scarcely matters, except for Hildy's surprising response--so much less real is the outside world than this dormitory room. Thus a larger concern is the sensitive problem of persuading the astigmatic but penniless Hildy to get eyeglasses; when she does, her volleyball suffers (she can't see the larger pattern) and she finally discards them on court. (Underlining the symbolism, Voight has Ann too see things differently through Hildy's strong glasses.) Finally, Hildy runs off without the glasses, to be hit and killed by a car, after all their differences come out in a conflict over Niki's use of Ann's ideas in an English paper. And so the story, in retrospect, becomes one of how Ann and Niki assimilate Hildy's presence and her death. Voight neither distances herself from this gravely experienced intersection nor forces its sensibility on readers; rather, she makes us suspended, sympathetic ghosts in the girls' world.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum