LOOKING BACK

Belva Plain, Author LOOKING BACKBelva Plain

What begins as an engaging story about three college roommates—brainy Norma, lovely Amanda, preppy Cecile—and their differing futures takes a bewildering turn in Plain's latest domestic saga. When the three women graduate, Amanda, desperate to escape her lower-class background, marries Larry Balsan, Norma's brother, who is in the family real estate business. As Mrs. Balsan, she can shop to her heart's content, but she soon realizes she is not as happy as Cecile, who marries her college sweetheart, or even Norma, who is biding her time until she meets Mr. Right. So far so good, but the plot is thrown off kilter when Amanda and her aloof, widower father-in-law inexplicably tumble into an affair. The awkwardness of such a union bleeds into the prose, and Plain is unable to make the twist work—there is no satisfying tension or electricity between Amanda and L.B., as he is known, so their passionate affair rings false. Plain (Fortune's Hand, etc.) compounds the problems with her plot by turning the steadfast Norma into a conniving schemer who, out of misguided loyalty to her brother, undermines Cecile's husband. The flowing story line, neatly resolved problems and intriguing exploration of family relationships that readers have come to expect from Plain are absent here. (Apr. 10)