WHAT ABOUT THE LOVE PART?

Stephanie Rosenfeld, Author . Ballantine $22 (224p) ISBN 978-0-345-44823-1

Rosenfeld's debut, billed as a book of short stories, reads more like a fractured novel, featuring Abby Hillman, divorcée and mother of Katrin. Eleven tales narrated variously by incarnations of Abby old and young; Stephen, Abby's most-of-the-time boyfriend; Jamie, Stephen's brother; and Abby's best friend's grandmother, are deliberately arranged so that they are not temporally contiguous. But the title, in this case, tells all, and Rosenfeld's artsy attempt to disquiet the reader is thwarted by the uniformity of her prose and her characters' voices. One might think that the commitments of single parenthood, an ex-husband, a job as a baker and the white-river rafting trips Stephen favors would be all-involving, but Abby still finds time to worry, mostly about finding the proper mate. A series of imaginative scenes are reduced to metaphors for loss and loneliness: the passing back and forth of a glass of water between Abby and her best friend comes to signify the looming end of their friendship; an infestation of lice at Katrin's school makes Abby painfully aware of who she can (or can't) call upon in a crisis. Rosenfeld has a knack for recalling the feel of childhood—even the lice episode brings back pleasant memories ("lice might make you wish you were a kid again... crab apple, plum, horse chestnut fights on the way home from school.... Or trying on bathing suits at the mall with your friend...."). But character and plot tend to become merely grist for the metaphor mill, which places the burden of capturing the reader's attention upon Abby, whose self-centered musings just don't do the trick. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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