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Apparently unsure whether to make this novel a snappy Jewish-family/L.A.lifestyle satire or a fiercely psychological identity/marriage crisis, Nagy has put those two alien approaches together--with a contrived bit of suspense hysteria for glue. The center for it all is 32-year-old Hannah Oberman Nicoli of West Hollywood, who has ""a good marriage, two beautiful children, interesting work"" (writing for magazines). So what's wrong? Well, Hannah is still haunted by her mother's years-ago death from cancer--and by her emotionally stunted father's chronic adulteries (which may have helped to kill her mother). And now Hannah's father's ""frith"" has taken an even more loathsome, dangerous turn: Hannah starts getting threatening, abusive phone calls from a cackling madwoman who accuses Hannah of incest; it's obviously one of father Norman's castoff mistresses. So while these anonymous assaults escalate--telegrams, packages--Hannah simmers and writhes in self-analysis, memories, and feelings, many of which are set down in dreadful globs of overwrought prose: ""Pricks and stabs of feeling, mild precursors, gentle tappings of pain, depression, despair, falling softly like petals from a ripening tree. Settling easily. Nothing chopped . . . Pings and thumps and whispers of feelings dropping here and there. . . ."" She also visits with her comically touchy Jewish aunts and her raunchy pal Agatha; she overhears a few batches of California-chic chatter; she stops in at a sex-toy store (""she felt excitement floor her, passion lost for so long from her life, lost with her husband, triggered by bits of cheap pink plastic""); and she's forced to face her marital sex problems after a hot-tub quickie with a Venice roller-skater (She ""felt lust and heat and yearning. Felt life""). Finally, then, after a violent showdown with the stalking madwoman and a tediously shrill rap session with husband Nick (""You dumb Jewish cunt, you're no different!""), Hannah sees that her marriage is rotten and moves to Connecticut with the kids. Some flashes of talent in the sharp comic touches--and some authentically painful material in Hannah's memories of her mother; otherwise, however, a fuzzy, noisy psycho-drama that parades its feelings of ""fear and hate and pain and atrocity"" to little effect.

Pub Date: Sept. 17th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow