PAINTING ON GLASS by Jessica Auerbach


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From the author of Winter Wife (1983): an appealingly written, though not fully satisfying, story of an ambiguous relationship that shifts between friendship and romantic love. When this 60's novel opens, childhood friends Rachel Rothstein and Jake Marsh are separated for the first time and keeping in touch through frequent, desperate, and loving letters. She is studying art history at Connecticut College for Women; he--a Yale-educated painter--has fled his draft board for a life of exile in Canada. Their parents always expected the two to marry, and Jake and Rachel have let their families hold to this fantasy while insisting to each other that the relationship is platonic. Of course, Rachel did give Jake her virginity but, believing he regretted the sexual involvement, promptly moved from his bed to that of another boy. Theirs is a story of bad timing and unspoken feelings. It's a sentimental pleasure to see these two finally and properly united at the close, but the obstacles that come between them until then--including Rachel's impulsive marriage to a manipulative druggie and the subsequent neglect she suffers from her not-very-convincing parents--seem contrived to fill her life (and the novel's pages) until it's time for her and Jake to meet again. When Rachel, pregnant and in crisis, arrives in Toronto and briefly moves into the apartment that Jake shares with his Canadian girlfriend, the story becomes emotionally engaging in its depiction of this love triangle in which there are no bad guys, but enough uncertainty, loyalty, jealousy, and pain to go around. There's fine writing throughout here, but Rachel and Jake are self-dramatizing and often irresponsible, simply not up to the heroic tone of the prose. Still, a sometimes moving and promising try.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1988
Publisher: Norton