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Top oncologist (middle-aged, married) meets writer (middle-aged, married) who has cancer. They love. She dies. And in between the first post-op exchange and the sweet, sad close of this very professional version of the pop Love Story formula, Dr. Jason Darvey and Sara McFarland will trade intuitions (she begins a New Yorker-type profile of an oncologist) and examine their respective marriages. Sara's husband Harry is kind and responsible, a good father to their two grown children. He's O.K. to live with--but not to die with. Darvey's wife Beth, pretty and vivacious, does not share his interests and lacks that ""something that touches you sharply where you feel."" So, as Sara's illness progresses, so does the inexplicable, liberating attraction between Sara and Jason. And then one day in the examining room: ""They looked at each other. It was a look as solid as a pyramid, heavy, immutable, wordless. It was a look Dante might have turned on Beatrice. . . ."" In the meantime, Jason, anguished and pushed to a hope his science would deny, exhausts his colleagues' bags of tricks in chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. He arranges to have Sara fly to the Caribbean, where a Dr. Ramsey, a responsible researcher using a drug not approved by the FDA, treats terminal cases. Two weeks will tell the tale, and Jason and Sara have an idyllic week or so, loving and clinging together. But Sara learns the truth from Dr. Ramsey before Jason, who thus can't prevent her from taking the suicide pills: the two, clutched together, watch the waves break on the shore as Sara expires. Lazlo has gathered convincing but not overwhelming medical detail, and she allows her patient/heroine to decline oh-so-gracefully; so the more squeamish reader will be able to transfer attention from symptoms of the illness to those of amour. Only moderately damp (far more astringent than Segal) and mostly likable--a respectable recycling.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1981
Publisher: Dial