IN SHELLY'S LEG by Sara Vogan


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A women's softball team, playing for a Montana bar named Shelly's Leg, is the fast-pitching champion of the state. Pitcher and star is Margaret, divorced mother of two and the lover of struggling musician Woody; her battery-mate (and best friend) is Rita, an Indian and day bartender at Shelly's Leg. But when Woody asks Margaret to pack up the kids and herself to join him and his jazz-rock band for a touring swing around the West (he hopes this will make the band's name), Margaret goes through some hard thought and pain and says no: she's had enough of being the monkey on a male-held string, jerked around at his will. So. . . Woody takes up with Rita, who suffers a bit (betraying Margaret is no fun) but will go with him. Finally, then, Margaret is left with her own stiffening decision--and what consolation she takes from Sullivan, the owner of Shelly's Leg and an expert on female fear and inner loneliness. (He was the lover of the original Shelly, the bar owner, a woman one-legged on account of a motorcycle accident.) What's interesting in this first novel is how the Western/hippie atmospheres purify down to such basic--and conventional--emotional situations of rejection, independence, jealousy. What's not so engaging is the limp-noodle way in which these squalls of feeling are handled: the motives and moves are taken straight from country-and-western jukebox psychology, with everyone displaying stereotypical rough hides and soft innards. True, the baseball scenes give Vogan a chance to syncopate a little, as do the profane bar dialogues--but they don't ever make a rodeo out of what is basically just a series of mildly diverting little jumps.

Pub Date: March 6th, 1981
Publisher: Knopf