Bad Angel: 9

Helen Benedict, Author Dutton Books $22.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-94100-2
Good intentions and a good ear carry Benedict (A World Like This) only so far in her second novel. To her credit, she has created a credible first-person voice for Bianca Rodriguez Diaz, a 14-year-old Dominican-American in New York City who, along with her infant daughter, has been abandoned by her young husband. Bianca's voice alternates with that of her mother, Teresa, a deeply religious woman who cleans subway cars for a living. Bianca's no dope, but she's clearly too young to mother her daughter. She resents the child for existing and refers to her as ""the baby"" rather than by her name, Rosalba. Along comes white newspaper reporter Sarah Goldin, who has been unsuccessfully trying to conceive a child. After Rosalba is hospitalized as a result of Bianca's violence, Teresa asks Sarah whether she would be interested in adopting the baby. To overcome the reluctance of both Sarah and Bianca, Teresa devises opportunities for Sarah to bond with the baby and for Bianca to be dazzled by what Sarah's relative wealth could mean for Rosalba. Bianca's second thoughts after she has surrendered the baby to Sarah lead to a made-for-TV finale in family court. Benedict, a journalist, captures something undeniably real about her characters' lives. But it's a surface reality, and in the end Bianca, Teresa and Sarah are less human beings than sociological profiles. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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