Jeanne Braselton, Author Ballantine $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-345-44311-3

In this amiable exposé of a genteel enclave of the Deep South, where marriages disintegrate into strained truces, 38-year-old Jessie Maddox finds herself imagining all the ways her faultlessly upright but mind-numbingly boring banker husband, Turner, might plausibly die. A fall in the shower? A freak explosion in the basement? Anything would do. In lieu of murderous action, Jessie seeks the same false sense of well-being she prescribes to her psychiatric patients at the Glenville Wellness Center, like Wanda McNabb, a homemaker who actually has killed her husband. Then Jessie's best friend in Glenville Meadows, a suburban subdivision full of "Southern Living wives," confesses that she is involved in a steamy affair, and Jessie finds herself desperate for any change at all. In an effort to recapture her youth, she journeys to her hometown in Randolph Gap, Ala., where her mother—a maker of macramé handbags and a fervent evangelical churchgoer—still keeps house for her long-suffering father, and her wild sister, Ellen, is visiting with her son, Justin, and a full menagerie of birds. By contrast, dull Turner starts looking better. Finally, the gritty realities of smalltown limitations and universal disappointments steer the story away from a Thelma and Louise finale toward a more realistic but no less dramatic and ironic ending. Braselton's depiction of the plight of restless women and her brilliant descriptions of sheltered suburbia and smalltown life are delivered with scathing wit. (Oct. 2 )

Forecast: Blurbs from Anne Rivers Siddons, Kaye Gibbons, Lee Smith and Terry Kay suggest the slant and appeal of this novel, and should do much to capture readers' attention. An eight-city author tour and national print advertising will help.

Reviewed on: 08/06/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Open Ebook - 246 pages - 978-0-307-48461-1
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-0-7838-9642-7
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-345-44312-0
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