OUT OF DANGER by Suzanne Lipsett


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Lipsett seems out to rehumanize tabloid stories. Her first novel, Coming Back Up (1985), dealtÉ with a single woman pregnant by rape. Here, it's a teen-age girl's rocky reentry into family life after being kidnapped into sexual slavery. But Lipsett's gentle, understated approach robs the story of punch. Berkeleyite Elinor Landau's life is on the way up: her weavings sell in good stores; her bright 12-year-old, Laurel, makes a fine companion; and she is quite divorced from a wimpy, pothead mistake. (This is Alice Adams country, but less artfully mapped.) But the book's weakest stretch comes with Laurel's disappearance and Elinor's anguished five-month wait; Lipsett's reserved, plain style creaks with clichÉs in trying to describe such intense emotion. Then Laurel's return as an emaciated, silent waif lets the family drama begin. Two years later, Elinor's elderly mother, Vets, a social worker, moves in after several scary memory blackouts. Seeing how desperately Laurel needs an exorcism, Vera risks taking her to the movie Taxi Driver. It seems to work as Laurel tells Elinor details of her enslavement, the two of them breaking each other's deep reluctance to go near the subject. Lipsett has struck psychological bedrock; unfortunately, the book veers away as Elinor's new husband decides on a pastoral cure, moving the family to hill country. When Vera dies at the end, Laurel, now a high-school outcast, moves to a Buddhist retreat to tend their animals. Real tragedy is latent here, but Lipsett's reluctance to push the characters into real confrontations results in an emotionally arid novel--and the rather meager message that people can survive and make do.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum