Answer Is Yes

Sara Lewis, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-15-100326-6
If Life's Little Instruction Book were a novel it would be this unapologetically optimistic story of a young woman trying to get her life on track. Displaced from her job as a Cambridge, Mass., bank loan officer, lonely in her new surroundings in San Diego with her biologist husband's attention devoted to his research, Jenny Brown wanders into the Institute of Affirmation, where classes like ""Positive Ways to Say No"" and ""Make a Wish"" meet. Seated in the back of the ""Making Magic and Miracles"" seminar, she writes down her three most fervent desires: a happy marriage, a job she loves and a reunion with her birth mother. Then she clumsily begins to make each fantasy real, using the Institute's three-step method: (1) Pray, (2) Work hard and, if nothing happens, (3) Give up. Supporting Jenny's quest are her adopted mother, who flies in on her own jet to nurture and listen and then flies out again, and Michael, the Institute's attractive director, who pops up from nowhere whenever needed. Whimsical course descriptions, a chatty narrative and occasional moments of slapstick provide enough good-natured satire to disarm the most cynical reader. Lewis (But I Love You Anyway, etc.) reveals with gentle irony the gap between what people say they want and what they do. Her unpretentious novel, aimed at evoking an empathetic smile and maybe a tear, achieves its goal with ease. Author tour; rights: Elaine Markson. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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