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Elwood, who so competently completed Van Slyke's posthumous Public Smiles, Private Tears (1982), solos here--in a long-winded, sturdy Back Street sudser: his ladies may lack the class of Van Slyke's (more coffee in the kitchen than tea with pearls), but there's a satisfying blast of secret inner storms. Mary Scanlon Conroy, from the unfashionable West Side of Chicago, drifted--at age 30--into marriage with Jack Conroy. Now, some years later, Jack has left her--with impossible debts to pay. So nurse Mary grabs the chance to take on the care of a rich new patient: Joan Martin, partially paralyzed (temporarily, it is hoped) from a ski accident, Joan, trained in the pre-lib years to be the ""perfect wife,"" cannot bear to be a ""cripple."" She's drawn to patient, gentle Mary--who moves into the Martin home, nurses Joan, nurtures Joan's somewhat neglected children. . . and becomes disturbingly attracted to Joan's handsome husband Dan. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting Joan broods about her condition--and, determined to be her old siren self, she cajoles Dan to bed, becomes pregnant, but loses the baby and has a posh-sanitarium breakdown. Then, of course: the Mary/Dan affair blossoms. What should Mary do? (Joan's her trusting friend.) What's Dan to do? (He loves both women: ""Joan was what you fell in love with at twenty. And Mary was what you wanted at forty."") Then Joan, still faintly bonkers, escapes the surveillance of her psychiatrist, picks up a murderous Lothario in New York, is beaten and robbed; but she eventually comes around back home, resuming a social life and even priming Dan for politics. So: will Mary accept Dan's marriage proposal? Despite the warning that the Lake Shore crowd are ""takers"" while she's a ""giver,"" she's tempted. Finally, however, Mary stays loyal to both Dan and Joan--and the unstable kids--in a somewhat surprising finale. Preposterous, but easy going down--and undemanding soap-fans can ask for nothing more. . . .

Pub Date: March 14th, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row