Catching Heaven

Sands Hall, Author Ballantine Books $25 (384p) ISBN 978-0-345-43970-3
Hall's first novel meticulously details Southwestern life and the rancor of middle-aged sibling rivalry in a variation on one of Aesop's venerable fables. Lizzie Maxwell, a 39-year-old single mother, is the country mouse who once thought she'd paint in Paris, but now designs greeting cards and teaches art in the historic town of Marengo. Her 41-year-old sister, Maud Maxwell, is the city mouse who lives in Los Angeles and acts in TV dramas, sitcoms and commercials. The rivalry between the two dates back to childhood: Lizzie believes their parents always loved Maud best. Fed up with her fading career and her long-time lover, Miles, a musician who refuses to give her a child, Maud walks out on an embarrassing commercial audition, and on Miles, too. She drives to Marengo, where Lizzie and her three children (each fathered by a different man, none of whom Lizzie has married) have been living for 15 years. The tensions between the sisters, who envy each other's lives, escalate over a nine-month period. Maud finds a small house and a job as a saloon singer and piano teacher. She has brief affairs with Driver, a Native American activist, and Rich, an abusive young cowboy, and assumes an ever-larger role in the life of Lizzie's middle child, third-grader Summer. Lizzie's jealousy grows when Maud develops relationships with Sam, an elderly American Indian who is Lizzie's best friend and was her first lover in Marengo, and Jake Arboles, the father of Lizzie's youngest child. Although frequently awkward in the telling, and spotted with clich s, the novel conveys the pathos of the middle-aged realization that some options--including those of motherhood and artistic achievement--eventually expire. Major ad/promo; 5-city author tour. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-345-44000-6
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