The Habit of Loving

Barbara Lazear Ascher, Author Random House (NY) $16.95 (157p) ISBN 978-0-394-56515-6
Trying on the accoutrements of middle age as though they were a new style of clothing, Ascher explores mutability and loss with a deft, unshrinking touch. Firmly rooted in personal experience, these essays, approximately half of them original, the others reprinted mainly from the New York Times , move with grace from a particular, carefully observed moment to a wider perspective, often encompassing wisdom. A daughter leaving for college is springboard for an examination, in several pieces, of separation, grief, the displacement of generations, the necessity of memory. A section titled ``Talking Against Time'' examines the way we take stands against illness, aging, death, change. On a Caribbean beach at night with a group of stargazing adults, Ascher writes of a teenaged girl looking for shells: ``Unlike her mother, who has come for stars and knows better, she's out for earthly delights.'' Reflecting on her family's reaction to the death of the family dog, the author ends, ``We trip over the space he's left behind.'' Generally steering clear of the easy emotion or facile phrase, Ascher sometimes skirts perilously close to sentimentality. But in searching for the heart of ordinary events with her sharp, unflinching eye, she uncovers wonder and truth at our very doorsteps. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
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