Bad Timing

Betsey Berne, Author, Betsy Berne, Author
Betsey Berne, Author, Betsy Berne, Author Villard Books $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-679-46318-4
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An unnamed 30-something Manhattan woman embarks on a hopeless not-quite-love affair in this Sex and the City-style fiction debut. Tipsy at ""a trashy magazine party at a trashy new bar,"" the narrator is mesmerized by handsome Joseph Pendleton, a black jazz club owner, and dives into a one-night stand. A month later, she has mixed feelings when she finds herself pregnant by this married man. On the one hand, she wants a baby; on the other, as a struggling painter and magazine writer, she's not confident she can support a child. When she informs Joseph of her decision to terminate the pregnancy, their affair begins again with renewed vigor. While navigating the glossy magazine and gallery scene, the lovers do their best to figure out what, exactly, their commitment to each other should or could be. The result is a tangled and often painfully adolescent relationship, with the couple garrulously engaging in standard therapeutic-speak. The supporting characters are all stock New YorkersDthe flamboyant gay neighbor, the overbearing Jewish mother, the superficial beauty editor. Caustic racial asides are casually sprinkled throughout, but the relationship's racial dimension is never seriously addressed. This is a 21st-century love story, a typically urban tale in which love, in the classic sense of the word, is beside the point. Berne, herself a painter who has written for glossy magazines, brings a journalist's eye to her novel; every excruciating detail of a dead-end relationship is recorded. Some hip, urban female readers may identify despite themselves, but the uninflected, navel-gazing narrative lacks the energy to ring many bells. (Feb. 16)
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