Fault Lines

Anne Rivers Siddons, Author HarperCollins Publishers $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-017614-3
Her 11th novel (after Downtown) finds Siddons squarely back on track with an immensely readable narrative that's been trimmed of excesses and--except for the ending--unnecessary melodrama. In fact, even the symbolism here is lean and explicit: Merritt Fowler is at the end of her emotional tether and about to crack; then the earth does, in an earthquake that imperils her and three people she loves. The fault lines in Merritt's character are common to women, Siddons implies. Since her mother's death when she was 13, Merritt has been a willing caretaker for members of her family: first her younger sister, ``fragile, lovely, hungry'' Laura, now 38 and still a would-be actress; then her husband Pom, a doctor dedicated to the patients in his Atlanta clinics but demanding and dictatorial at home; then Pom's Alzheimer's-demented mother, Mommee. Merritt knows she's shortchanging her 16-year-old daughter, Glynn, who has survived one bout with anorexia but is again close to despair because she feels neglected by her father. When Glynn runs away to her aunt Laura in California, Merritt follows to bring her home but is caught up in circumstances that will forever change the lives of all three women. If Siddons initially makes Merritt a bit too perfect, selfless and saintly, she nicely traces the flowering of her heroine's self-image during several crises and a bittersweet love affair. Settings are authentically rendered, from Atlanta's upper-crust social milieu to Hollywood's tawdry glitz and the serene beauty of the redwood country near Santa Cruz. Neatly alternating earthquake lore with steamy sex scenes, Siddons manages her absorbing, if predictable, narrative with panache--and though the earthquake is employed as a tear-jerking deus ex machina, readers will probably take the device as fair exchange for the various epiphanies and rites of passage that Glynn, Laura and Merritt experience. $250,000 ad/promo; first serial to Good Housekeeping; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections; author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-06-017683-9
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