CROSSROADS by Mary Morris


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Morris' book of stories--Vanishing Animals and Other Stories--was impressive; her first novel proves that a lengthening of form can sometimes unhinge even the most promising of talents. Deborah Mills, an urban planner, a Jewish girl from the Midwest now in New York, is separated from lawyer-husband Mark. One of Debbie's oldest friends, Lila, stole him away; now Debbie lives wreathed in the fumes of rage and hurt. She meets Sean, a budding movie director, but at first doesn't like him very much. Eventually, after a dance of mutual hesitation (""So he thought I didn't start caring about him until he stopped trying to be with me, and I thought he stopped trying to be with me the minute I started caring""), a relationship does develop. Unfortunately, however, Morris fails to make any of this tangled, upwardly-mobile woe sympathetic or convincing: Mark is, as a character, indistinct at best; Sean is too retracted; Debbie herself is too much a fount of lugubrious wisdom. And, even technically, the novel is a shambles--with jarring shifts of narrative viewpoint, tedious social scenery, and embarrassing clichÉs: ""It was the kind of night when you could cut the air with a knife. . .""; ""I don't know how long we held one another, but it seemed like a long time, long enough for the tourists from New Jersey, those shell-shocked housewives from the Oranges and their husbands in green leisure suits, to stop and stare at us. . . ."" A major disappointment.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin