The Pull of the Moon

Elizabeth Berg, Author Random House (NY) $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-44972-0
What (in Range of Motion) seemed an unerring touch for the emotional truths of women's lives proves imperfect after all for Berg, who misses the mark in this story of a wife and mother who runs away to find herself. In a plot device reminiscent of Ann Tyler's Ladder of Years, Berg's protagonist, Nan, impulsively leaves her Massachusetts home soon after she turns 50, hitting the road to find a new sense of direction. ""I have felt so long like I am drowning,'' she explains in a letter to her husband, Martin, as she begins a car trip westward with no destination in mind except to ""come into my own.'' She chronicles both the geographical terrain and her inner landscape in further letters to Martin and to her grown daughter, Ruthie, and in a journal that has the tone of an adolescent's diary. Women will empathize with Nan's fear of aging and her gradual realization of the resentment she has long felt about filling the role of dutiful wife, but the epistolary device strips the story of immediacy, and the situations Nan describes are often unlikely or merely tame (she has a noisy tantrum at a beauty salon when she decides not to dye her gray hair; she invites a stranger into her cabin in the Minnesota woods and, when they go to bed, they just cuddle). Nan's conversations with other women are overdosed with saccharine, and her epiphanies are old hat. Self-indulgent and cloying, this is a one-tone narrative with almost none of the dramatic resonance Berg's fans have learned to expect. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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