The Properties of Water

Ann Hood, Author Doubleday Books $22.5 (275p) ISBN 978-0-385-47279-1
This sixth novel from Hood (Places to Stay the Night) is easy to describe in cliches, perhaps because it abounds in them. The story is heartwarming; it is down-to-earth; it will remind readers of many other tales of beleaguered women who learn to grow up, discover their identities and improve relationships within their family circles, all as a result of divorces. Josie Jericho Hunter is a resident of East Essex, R.I., a once-thriving town now suffering a recession that seems right in step with the depression of its inhabitants. Josie is the mother of two girls: Maggie, who suffers from adolescent angst and an unrequited crush; and Kate, who is much younger and is about to learn the painful lesson that her mother's love is neither infinite nor all-powerful. Meanwhile, Josie's husband is sleeping with a co-worker. Adding to Josie's difficulties are her father's Alzheimer's disease and her mother's insistence on selling the house in which Josie grew up and moving to a condo; compounding them are the attack, not far into the narrative, that robs Josie of her car and dignity, and the return of her sister, Michaela, the original flowerchild, who reawakens a few guilty consciences and tries to clean up the local river. The narrative meanders along, with a few betrayals, some subplots that lead nowhere and, most rewardingly, some amusingly desultory conversations among Josie's elderly aunts, all culminating in a giant flood that takes the metaphor of the polluted river about as far as possible. Try as she might, Hood doesn't elicit much sympathy for her characters, and when happy resolutions are finally in sight, readers may not particularly care. Author tour. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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