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Geraldine Coleshares is a denatured Jewish grad student at the University of Chicago, inordinately fond of classic rhythm & blues and bored to tears with academia. So she gives it up to become, mirabile dictu, a Shakette: a backup singer for Ruby Shakely and the Shakettes (read Tina Turner), the first and last white gift ever to do such a daring thing. Life as a Shakette consists mostly of boredom-on-the-bus and scandalized parental phone calls, but Geraldine plays out the string until the day when Ruby will go Vegas and not dare to have a white girl backup. Into Geraldine's life also comes Johnny Miller, a nice bland Jewish lawyer with a passion for the same kind of music. And a passion for Geraldine, too--who fends off his suit until she ultimately gives in and becomes wife, then new mother, then matron. Colwin (Another Marvelous Thing, 1986; Family Happiness, 1982, etc.) seems to have written this novel through gauze. It lacks almost all of the wit and sharpness of her best work, and seems urged on rather than loopily followed. No character, even Geraldine, seems more than a type; the only thing that comes off with immediacy, in fact, is the high level of Geraldine's tastes in black music. When she gets jobs after the Shakettes (and later, when her child begins school), she does so first with a black music foundation in Harlem, then with a strange office of Holocaust survivors--morally acceptable atmospheres you feel that Geraldine has been injected into instead of naturally, narratively destined for. A novel that, overall, has that willful but tired feel to it, making it seem like a string of fairly good notions around the neck of a figure of wax.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1990
ISBN: 0060955333
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster