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Anatomy-of-a-rape plus murky romance--in a slow, earnest case history that's cluttered with oleaginous prose and talky, unconvincing psychological stewings. Janice Lily is a young, recently divorced, second-grade teacher new to tough Los Angeles; and though she's upset when her brand new sportscar is vandalized in the school parking lot, the young security officer on the case--gruff Travis--soon becomes her wonderful new lover (""Free at last, a woman again, alive again""). But then Janice is raped in her empty classroom by a teenager and an older man--and she goes through all the internal and external traumas familiar from other rape-victim scenarios: the demeaning police procedures; fear of Travis' revulsion; inability to make love (""How can you do it when you even hate your own body at times, because it was partner in a horrible act?""); her cartoony mother's sexist advice (forget it, hide it, especially from Father); her uptight black principal's horror of publicity; innuendos (from caricatured colleagues) that Janice was ""asking for it""; comfort in a female rap session (""Girls. Girls together. Never had she felt this rapport""). And meanwhile the romance suffers doubly--as Travis becomes pathologically obsessed with the investigation, tracking down the 15-year-old rapist (a bedwetter with a mother-induced impotence hangup) and his half-brother accomplice. So Janice has to go through the further traumas of identifying the culprits and taking them to trial (""Tell the whole world what they did. Oh, God. How could she?""). But, though Wolff often seems merely to be dramatizing every conceivable aspect of a rape case, she does finally wind up, abruptly and confusingly, with the focus entirely on Janice's longtime problem with romance (""The old hostility, the man-woman war"")--which seems to have somehow been exorcised by the rape trauma and by Travis' increasing vulnerability: ""For now she herself was the source, the deviser of ways; she was the sorceress, knowing everything that was woman and everything that was man. All love's potential opened before her."" Hard-working and probably well-intentioned--but the issues involved are handled better elsewhere, and the lovers' supposed transformations here are neither involving nor persuasive.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row