Anita Diamant, Author . Scribner $25 (256p) ISBN 0-7432-2532-5

There's less to chew on in Diamant's follow-up to her wildly successful first novel, The Red Tent, which offered a reinterpretation of the biblical world of women. She does make a smooth entry into the arena of contemporary women's fiction with this graceful story of a new friendship between Kathleen, a 59-year-old woman who has recently discovered that she has breast cancer, and 42-year-old Joyce, who is facing a midlife crisis with her work and family. Faith and religion are woven matter-of-factly into the narrative: Kathleen, born Catholic, converted to Judaism when she married her husband, and Joyce, a nonobservant Jew, finds that her new summer house comes complete with a shrine to the Virgin. The two women meet by chance at a temple service in their New England coastal town of Gloucester and begin meeting for walks and talks at picturesque Good Harbor beach. As Kathleen undergoes radiation treatment for her cancer, she is plagued by memories of her sister (who died from the disease) and the accident 25 years earlier that killed one of her three sons. Joyce spends her time remodeling and putting off writing—she has authored a romance novel under a pseudonym—while worrying about her increasingly distant husband and quarrelsome 12-year-old daughter. The male characters are disappointingly one-dimensional (Kathleen's husband and two adult sons are rather boringly devoted, and Joyce's husband gets trotted out for a few obligatory "busy-at-work" conversations), but the women reveal hidden depths as they grow closer. Despite a fairly ordinary plot line and too-convenient resolution, Diamant delivers a satisfying portrayal of a delicate and sustaining friendship formed later in life. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/24/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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