Grief in a Sunny Climate

Diane Shalet, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-11054-3
Shalet's first novel, set in the mid-1980s, features a sympathetic widow in her early 40s living in L.A. and struggling, via compulsive irony (``People tell me to keep on living but they're not specific about the process''), witty self-deprecation and addiction (primarily Valium and booze), to face her grief over her husband's recent death. The narrative begins episodically--Babe swigs whiskey with a bag lady in the park and is swindled by a Swedish theologian--but begins to coalesce in response to the heroine's gradual reacceptance of life, pleasure and creativity. (Babe's feelings toward a politically correct author that her advertising agency is promoting are fleshed out, as is her relationship with a Freudian psychiatrist, which culminates in her telling him off in front of his show-biz patients). Though some of Shalet's comic situations are stock (Babe, trying to dine alone discreetly, is serenaded by roving musicians), they rarely detract from her ability to celebrate life and art in a way that does not diminish the reality of grief. This is a promising debut from a writer adept at the difficult trick of grounding irony in sincerity. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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