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by A.M. Homes

Pub Date: May 6th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41568-8
Publisher: Knopf

 A shrink convinces herself that one of her patients is her lost daughter: the strong premise has a weak follow-through in Homes's first novel for adults (after her YA novel Jack, 1989, and her 1990 story collection, The Safety of Objects). When Claire Roth was in college, she became pregnant by her English professor. Dead-set against a back-alley abortion (this was 1966) and getting no sympathy from her ice-cold WASP parents, Claire was forced to give up her baby for adoption (by a Jewish family, she insisted). Now 43, a successful Manhattan therapist with a good marriage and two sons, she is still haunted by that early loss, still self-punishing. Her newest patient is Jody Goodman (whose viewpoint alternates with Claire's). The outwardly self-confident Jody, who works for a film producer, is getting the jitters over her imminent departure for UCLA's film school. Despite a wonderfully helpful mother, Jody has always had problems making changes and getting close to people. Is this related to her adoption? When Claire first sees the possibility that Jody is her daughter (times and places jibe), the therapist considers her own violent reaction as a countertransference problem; but then Claire starts behaving unprofessionally, fawning over Jody while neglecting her own family. After this tension, there is a falling- off. Jody leaves for California, escorted by her mother, and the only way Homes can reconnect her protagonists is to have Jody fly back east with a Mysterious Virus, while Claire is spinning her wheels. The climax is effectively ghoulish but resolves nothing. Snappy dialogue, transparently clear style, and characters handled with just the right amounts of sympathy and acerbity: Homes has a bright future--but, for now, readers have this intriguing if ultimately disappointing debut.