Naked to the Waist CL

Alice Elliott Dark, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $19.95 (261p) ISBN 978-0-395-57818-6
In this bittersweet first collection of six short stories and novellas, Dark deftly plumbs the minds of her complex, appealing protagonists, revealing the crux of their emotional conflicts. Her upper-middle-class, artistic, psychologically astute, conversationally clever and vaguely unhappy characters resemble those of TV's thirtysomething. They struggle with relationships and identity crises, trying to determine what they truly want and to summon the will to obtain it. A 38-year-old painter hoping to jump-start her career wrestles with the decision to have a baby. A 31-year-old woman suffering from unrequited love for a homosexual man rushes into an engagement with another man, misunderstanding both their motives. Realizing how important his wife is to him, a successful novelist ends an extramarital affair in an attempt to keep from destroying both his marriage and his creative process. Dark's message--that to find freedom and happiness, you must overcome fears, take risks and assume responsibility for your life--is old news, but her tidy plots and sparkling dialogue avoid cliche, and her characters, while familiar types, acquire dimension. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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