After Lydia

Sandra Tyler, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $22 (306p) ISBN 978-0-15-193111-8
In this emotionally acute novel, Tyler (Blue Glass) questions whether family members ever truly know one another. It has been a year since Lydia, wife of an unambitious lawyer and mother of two adult daughters, was killed at a railroad crossing in her small Massachusetts town. Only her 27-year-old daughter Vickie, visiting to celebrate grandmother Ruth's 80th birthday, dares suggest that Lydia might have committed suicide. While others call the death an accident, Vickie demands a truth of which she can never be certain. Tyler sure-handedly maps the interrelationships between Lydia's survivors: Vickie, who strove to break free of her mother, then lost her completely; elder daughter Meryl, who envies Vickie's single status and fears for her own rebellious children; neighbor Gail, who shared an intimate friendship and possibly a love affair with Lydia; and brother Warren, criticized for not attending his sibling's funeral. Petty arguments break out, but days pass before the principals acknowledge their true emotions-any or all of them could have contributed to Lydia's grief. Tyler's drama, loaded with screenplay-friendly dialogue, proceeds smartly and stingingly. Lydia's absence is tangible, and her family is lopsided without her: ``It's just this kinetic energy this family has, like we're one big imploding star,'' Meryl observes. The characters do not learn whether Lydia took her own life, but as they search their memories, Tyler deftly taps their sense of regret. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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