cover image Falling in Love with Natassia

Falling in Love with Natassia

Anna Monardo, . . Doubleday, $23.95 (483pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51466-8

Monardo's sophomore effort is less about New York teenager Natassia and more about Natassia's beleaguered parents and grandparents and their circles of friends, all of whose struggles to truly grow up are even more painful and fraught than their daughter's. Mary Mudd, a free-spirited modern dancer, and Ross Stein, a troubled doctor, were college students abroad when they conceived Natassia on a dare. After four years of stunningly irresponsible parenting and an inevitable breakup, they sent Natassia to live with Ross's parents on the Upper West Side. Now, 15 years later, Mary's life has stabilized, and she's preparing to invite Natassia to live with her in upstate New York. Natassia has other plans, most of which revolve around a mysterious older boyfriend. But when the relationship ends, Natassia's suicide attempt and nervous breakdown prompt Mary's best friend, Nora, to re-examine, obsessively, a secret incident from Natassia's infancy that, when revealed, will either save or destroy both Mary and Nora's friendship and Nora's marriage. Monardo's sentences are as lyrical as those of her debut, The Courtyard of Dreams (1993), but after the initial series of revelations, an overabundance of detail swamps the plot. And the denouement, in which a group therapy session serves the same function as Hercule Poirot's traditional gathering of suspects, ties up loose ends so neatly that suspending one's disbelief becomes difficult. (On sale June 20)