SUN DIAL STREET by Marti Leimbach


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Leimbach follows her very successful debut (Dying Young, 1989, which had another life as a 1991 movie) with this lackluster story of frayed family ties. The Haskells, a Massachusetts family, split up when the father dies. Mother and daughter move to Los Angeles while 25-year-old Sam, our narrator, pursues his career in Boston (he manages musical acts) and rejoices that manic-depressive LoIS and silly adolescent Ginny are off his bands. Four years later, when the story proper begins, Sam goes out to L.A. for the first time; selfish as ever, he's going for business reasons first, a family reunion second. That reunion is tricky; he must start over with Ginny, who has gone from girl to woman (a moody, tense, fiercely independent woman), and tread carefully around Lois, quite at sea without a caring spouse to supervise her pill-taking. Then, impatiently, Leimbach gives up on this family scene (banishing Lois to Oregon with her lover Van, a corpulent ex-lunatic loathed by Ginny) and wings it from page to page with the help of three new characters: Eli, the owner of a trendy Hollywood restaurant and upscale strip-joint; Eli's sleazy business partner Mikey; and Mikey's beautiful wife, Lucy. Sam learns slowly that Ginny (ostensibly just a waitress in the restaurant) is both Eli's woman and the designer of the strippers' costumes. Scarcely has this sunk in when Eli is electrocuted in his hot tub: accident? murder? Sam goes around and around this question (he never finds out for sure), while making love to Lucy, fending off the madly jealous Mikey, and (in his few calm moments) learning he can no longer play big brother to Ginny. The weak narrative grip, the awkward shifts and dislocations, the bland narrator, and the capricious removal of the most interesting character, the richly ambiguous Eli: all make this a disappointing second offering.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday