TAKING LEAVE by Janet Shaw


Email this review


One of Show's best short stories, ""A New Life"" (collected in 1984's Some Of The Things I Did Not Do), interestingly extends itself beyond where a reader expects it to stop, and thus is given leave to discover whole new layers of emotional complication tighter formal control mightn't have allowed. In this, her first novel, the procedure seems the reverse: the narrative form is so tightly wound from the beginning that the book can only relax into what's been promised--and the effect is very limp. Will Brenner is a suburban Chicago surgeon married to anorexic and barren Laura. She and her sister Jo lost their parents young, and for some time now Jo has been living with Will and Laura; now she's going to college and has become a woman of some maturity. Will has always been passively attracted to Jo--but on a trip the three of them take to Europe, Jo lures an ambiguous writer, Thomas Trawick, who promptly becomes obsessed with her. Jo thinks he's a creep--but Trawick's diabolism, his capacity for obnoxious hurt, finds some sympathetic understanding in Laura: two pieces of damaged goods making a single whole. The cat's cradle pattern resolves itself in violence and double-suicide--but long before it, a reader has lost interest in the overly breath-held yet all too obvious transposition. Stiff, much too portent-soaked fiction by a talented writer who here seems too anxious about the larger canvas set before her.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking