Answering e-mail leads to danger for bestselling author Grace Loring in bestselling author Allen's 36th novel. Grace's autobiography, Hit or Miss, recounts her experience as a battered wife; she takes her infant daughter and seeks refuge from an abusive husband in the Vermont home of her brother, Gus, where she pursues a career writing and lecturing about abuse. Her work attracts many fans, including women in need of help. When she receives an e-mail from Stephanie Baine, whose abusive marriage and neglectful parents remind Grace of her own, she begins an e-mail dialogue, encouraging Stephanie to talk through her problems and confront them. Then trouble finds Grace as Stephanie's marriage ends in bloodshed, with Grace's e-mails key evidence for the trial. Worse, Stephanie may not be what she had claimed. Allen lays out her narrative in workmanlike prose, highlighted by touching family moments featuring Grace's daughter, Nicky, and ailing brother, Gus—though stock secondary characters do little to enhance the story. Writing under the name of Bette Davis's character in Now, Voyager, Allen (Daddy's Girl, Parting Gifts, etc.) has long favored smart women who don't catch on as fast as the audience, strong women who struggle against denial, neglect, fear, anger and frustration. This novel boasts that kind of heroine, but the tale loses power toward the end as plot twists meant to increase dramatic intensity strain credibility. National advertising; author tour. (May)
Forecast:With Allen's own experience as a victim of abuse (detailed in her autobiography, Daddy's Girl), and with an author tour scheduled for mid-April, to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness month, expect plenty of media attention.