The Looking-Glass Lover

Ursula Perrin, Author Little Brown and Company $17.45 (287p) ISBN 978-0-316-69961-7
Perrin's books ( Old Devotions ) get better each time out; here she attempts a clever plot twist in a novel that alternates between the lives of cousins Barbara and Claire--both writers, and each the other's doppelganger or mirror image. Despite many satisfying moments, however, the epiphanies the women achieve are too patly structured to be entirely credible. Flip, irreverent and desperate, Barbara narrates in her own voice, conveying her chaotic lifestyle as she raises three troubled teenagers in the absence of her alcoholic husband, teaches school while trying to complete her novel, and skitters on the edge of a financial abyss. Claire's voice is muted, since she and her physician husband Gordy are hollowed out by grief: three years after their eldest son was killed in a skiing accident, another teenaged son mysteriously vanished. Besides their anguish about their children, the cousins share a yen for each other's man. Barbara has an itch for Gordy, and Claire is attracted to publisher Jason Conover, the man who broke Barbara's heart. Perrin writes with energy and compassion about the quiet desperation in ordinary lives. She is less effective when she allows the book to become an angry feminist statement, such as when the cousins reflect about harm inflicted by fathers, spouses and lovers. Despite these drawbacks, Perrin provokes insight and touches responsive chords. (July)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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