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Alma Taylor is a Baltimore artist who has an unlikely affair with Richard Kaplan--a man who comes on too strong and keeps coming that way until the next thing Alma knows she's in love, she's pregnant, she's married, she has a baby named Ruth--and there never seemed to have been a moment to say to herself, This now is happening and now also this. The same kind of pell-mell relentlessness characterizes this novel, Crone's first; in it she seems to build up more obstacles to smooth narrative progress than are scarcely imaginable. To wit: two of Alma's closest friends are a woman/transsexual couple; and before Alma has her baby, Richard's mother dies of a brain tumor and thereafter appears occasionally in the book as Alma's guardian angel; and after Alma has her baby (a terrible, near-fatal labor, Alma almost dying of eclampsia), her alcoholic visiting father falls in love with the woman of the transsexual couple; and then Alma's mother comes to stay a few weeks to help take care of the baby (readers of Crone's invigorating book of stories, The Winnebago Mysteries, 1982, will remember what a way Crone has with mother-daughter relationships; this is the book's most effective section); and finally Alma--who never has time to discover when her life began to tornado like this--leaves her husband and baby and screwed-up parents and friends: she goes to New York to leave it all behind. So much; probably too much. But to pass it off as a mess--which in a sense it is--would be to miss the buoyancy and intelligence and plasticity and plain speed of Crone's jagged style. A paragraph like this, filled with deft feints and jabs (the baby is having one of her marathon crying spells, at the same time Alma is quarreling with Richard: ""What I had in mind at that moment was the image of the two of us, nude like Adam and Eve holding hands, bumping into each other. This was a grave cartoon, executed by Albrecht Durer. And then we stepped back, having hit each other good and hard, and we were holding our genitals out of pain or shame or both, and there before us was this helpless egg of a homonculus, screaming, making an unbelievable racket. What had we gone and done? How were we going to make up for it? Toil, I thought."" Except for a very weak, sagging ending, a novel of high promise and considerable skill of voice. Crone's a comer.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1986
Publisher: Putnam