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A middle-aged, divorced writer heads back to her native Mormon country--in a gallivanting roots odyssey that features robust wit and moody affection . . . except when it (very unpersuasively) turns to suicidal impulses. Jasmine, 43, from a family ""fraught with lethal sexual drama,"" has come to a dead end in California. True, her bouncy, much-younger lover is a charming distraction (it was he who thwarted her suicide attempt #1). But nearby ex-husband Gabor, famed Hungarian film director, is an irritant; her psychiatrist is rather insecure (Jas can't manage a ""transference""); and life has withered ever since Jas left now-remarried husband Richard on their Utah farm, starved for the intimacy they never seem to have achieved. ""Love was a failure--I'm a failure . . . suicide was the only means of escaping with the self intact."" So Jas sets off on the homeward journey before The End, with her fainting-prone English bulldog Fanny (""her sagging face like an old crumpled velvet evening bag with an ivory snap""). First stop is kind Cousin Reed's Mormon household; but, among believing kin, Jas is a ""personna only questionably grata"" who can never cotton to the Mormon domestic principle--""man is magnificent, woman is worthy."" Next she visits an aging actress once in love with Jas' handsome late father, who offers advice on not looking back--and also an introduction to muscular Barry (with whom Jas has happily mindless sex). Then: on to friend Connie, who's big on home truths--so there's a bloody, bone-bashing battle between the two over-boozed women. And it's at the home of Jas' 90-year-old Aunt Mitt that the journey begins to cohere in a past of rugged survival. Then, however, after a hilarious session with a local culture group (bronze driftwood and plastic plants), Jas is again on the road to her own death--after composing a last suicide letter (there are a number throughout to family and friends) . . . to a horse. Despite the faint and flimsy suicide motif: spirited entertainment, with some glowing evocations--and Fanny, one of fiction's most endearing mutts.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin