Lessons in Survival

Laramie Dunaway, Author Grand Central Publishing $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-446-51700-3
Dunaway's latest (after the beguiling Borrowed Lives ) is an overambitious and bluntly unromantic tale of a mixed-up child- and adulthood. Narrator Blue Erhart, a 32-year-old high school biology teacher, has a notorious past: her parents were hippie bank robbers who followed the Robin Hood ethic and were sent to prison after Blue bought an ice cream cone with a marked bill. Nineteen years later, their sentences are served, and Blue, who stopped visiting them when her mother turned down parole on principle, can no longer fathom the role of daughter. And with good reason. Her folks aren't just quirky, they're downright unpleasant. When Blue first catches up with them at a dingy apartment, her mother answers the door stark naked and cracks jokes about homophobia. Besides having to contend with such oddities, Blue also spends time dodging reporters, fending off an aspiring movie producer who wants the rights to her story and pursuing Thomas Q, the messianic subject of her dissertation. That a small-time filmmaker is curious about Blue seems credible, but it's a stretch to believe that paparazzi spend hours each day monitoring her apartment. Blue is too gruff to win over readers (making love with her ex-husband, biology-minded Blue imagines the dust mites that inhabit the carpet.) Readers are more punished than rewarded for perseverance as Dunaway's sitcom-ish material slips out of her grasp. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1994
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