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Less funny, more soapy: that's the direction that Parent (Sheila Levine. . . , The Best Laid Plans) seems to be heading in--with this droopy, often-stale mixture of adultery, orgasm-counting, teenage pregnancy, and self-actualization. Marjorie and David Weissman have been married for nearly 20 years; he's a Long Island cardiologist; she's a star with the local amateur theater-group, fairly content as doctor's wife and mother of overweight teenager Julie. But then, while Marjorie starts getting sexually itchy (""She wished he was a machine, a man with a vibrator instead of a penis""), David--onetime super-letch--longs for romance, falling in non-carnal love with a brainless, beautiful patient. Marjorie finds out, to her fury, even though there's been no real affair. (""Fucking is better than flowers every time. You fuck a piece of fluff, but you love or get stupidly infatuated with something that lives."") So, as summer begins, Marjorie leaves David, goes to N.Y.C., stays with her disapproving mother, scraps with her jealous sister, and joins a professional acting class--falling oh-so-predictably in love with charismatic teacher Lucas, an exciting but unsatisfying (orgasmwise) lover. And meanwhile, in a YA-ish subplot, daughter Julie, reluctantly shipped off to fat-girls' camp, has been keeping her pregnancy a secret from the Weissmans. Will Marjorie go back to miserable, repentant David? Will she get a major commitment from cynical loner Lucas? How long can Julie keep her condition a secret? Will she ultimately have an abortion or keep the baby? Will Marjorie and David become more sensitive parents? Those are the dÉja vu questions at the core of Parent's least original novel. More crucially, Marjorie is an oddly unappealing, under-motivated heroine--even if she ultimately does the Right Thing without giving up her new-born sexuality. (""She went home loving two men."") So, though dotted with the usual sit-corn/vulgar one-liners, plus some fairly authentic acting-class atmosphere, this more serious comedy-drama--unfocused, psychologically unconvincing--may disappoint those who count on Parent for fairly steady chuckles.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam