Story of a Happy Woman

Elizabeth Levin, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-525-24696-1
This ultimately disappointing first novel depicts Myrtle Wood, whose pain and anxiety would be intolerable without her vivid fantasy life. Superficially, Myrtle seems to have it all: a comfortable home in a posh New York suburb, two grown children, a successful husband named Harry who plays a French chef in GE oven commercials, and a talent for creating pottery. Nevertheless, Myrtle feels like ``a little wooden boat on a stormy sea.'' Harry prefers his decrepit, incontinent dog to his wife; Myrtle's cancer, once in remission, recurs; her pottery show earns just one, blistering review. Faced with these burdens, Myrtle desperately invents a new identity, Nellie Pear, along with a collection of numbered ``stick people'' who voice her innermost thoughts and concerns. Most satisfying of all, however, is the Stranger, a swashbuckling young Peter O'Toole-type who appears whenever Myrtle's woes become too oppressive. Levin's wry humor is initially intriguing, but becomes outlandish as she delves deeper into her protagonist's make-believe world, giving rise to an especially farfetched final scene. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/03/1988
Release date: 11/01/1988
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