Living Other Lives

Caroline Leavitt, Author
Caroline Leavitt, Author Warner Books $21.95 (327p) ISBN 978-0-446-51705-8
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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A reckless, anguished and adrenaline-charged road trip opens Leavitt's (Into Thin Air) latest novel: Lilly, distraught after her fiance Matt's accidental death two weeks before their marriage, is driving his uncooperative daughter, Dinah, 15, from Manhattan to the Pittsburgh home of Matt's mother, Dell. After this riveting scene, the narrative backtracks, providing snapshots of the lives of these four characters. Dinah's blissful Ohio childhood with her divorced veterinarian father is recalled, as is the larger-than-life long-distance courtship of Lilly and Matt: ``He left work to race home and fetch the mail, and if there was even a postcard from Lilly, he was delirious.'' With these and other bits of background established (including the loss of the clairvoyant powers that once earned Lilly a comfortable living as a psychic), the story line returns to 1990, as Lilly leaves Dinah with Dell and sets out on a cross-country journey of mourning, thinking she's seen the last of the unhappy teenager. But unforeseen circumstances draw Lilly back to Pittsburgh, where--against her will--she lays down tentative roots and makes a stab at providing Dinah with a home. In the next two years, Dinah, Dell and Lilly each come to terms with the loss of the man who meant so much to them. Throughout, Leavitt evinces an intimate understanding of the process of mourning, and a keen eye for some of the unsympathetic ways in which people can react to displays of grief. Although the prose is occasionally overcharged , that won't prevent readers from surrendering to the heartfelt and beguiling story. First serial to Good Housekeeping. (May)
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