Set in 1947 on a horse farm in Missouri, Esstman's (The Other Anna) somewhat listless new novel concerns the members of the Mahler family and a brooding outsider named Ozzie Kline. The action opens with 17-year-old Simon Mahler lying lifeless on the ground after being thrown from his mother's horse. Nora, his mother, is so overcome with grief that Neal, her husband, decides she needs shock treatment. When that worsens her stupor, Neal gives up and takes off for Chicago, creating just the opening that Ozzie, Nora's erstwhile lover, needs to work his way into the horse stalls--and Nora's life. Nora's paralysis is often tedious: she sleeps, mopes around the house and recalls Simon as an ideal teenager. Neal, on the other hand, is unfailingly cruel and painfully obtuse, a villain without any discernible motivation. Ozzie, the horse wrangler hardened by hand-to-hand combat with the Nazis but eternally tenderhearted when it comes to Nora, hangs around the farm eyeing her over the backsides of horses. It's agonizing instead of tantalizing to watch Nora and Ozzie circle each other, flirting with the chance to rekindle the perfect union they shared two decades earlier before the fast-talking Neal came to town and swept Nora away. The resolution is as obvious as the characters are flat. The narrative voice jumps from character to character, but the pieces never come together to create intrigue or suspense. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; film rights to Hallmark Productions; foreign rights sold to England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Holland; author tour. (Sept.) FYI: The Other Anna was produced as a TV drama titled Secrets.
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997 Release date: 09/01/1997
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