Five Minutes in Heaven

Lisa Alther, Author Dutton Books $22.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-525-93893-4
How a woman discovers her sexual identity is the theme of Alther's fifth novel, a work of admirable ambition but only tepid interest. Growing up in Tennessee during the 1950s, Jude subsumes her sorrow at her mother's death and her physician father's remoteness by a tomboyish, then latently erotic bonding with her best friend Molly. Molly dies. Ten years later, living in New York while attending graduate school at Columbia, Jude falls in love with another childhood friend, Sandy, who takes her to bed although he is gay. After Sandy, too, becomes a ``graveyard love,'' Jude, now a book editor in a publishing house, has a grand passion with poet/teacher Anna, who also is doomed to pass from her life. Finally, in Paris, Jude achieves an epiphany that allows her to accept her sexual nature and her future. Readers looking for the humor and dash of Kinflicks will be disappointed here; only rarely does Alther's plodding recital of Jude's unhappy existence admit flashes of wit. Instead, the prose is surprisingly graceless and often clumsy. Readers may be moved to laughter by the number of times characters are defined by their eye colors. Great significance accrues to the fact that one character's eyes are ``like licorice throat lozenges''; another's ``cat's eyes were flashing chartreuse''; and another's are like ``miniature blueberry pies... around each pupil was a tiny translucent golden ring like a butter rum life saver.'' As Jude ``earns her spurs in the rodeo of l'amour,'' her ``gift for suffering'' like Alther's eye-fixation, becomes tiresome. Author tour. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-452-27613-0
Ebook - 373 pages - 978-1-4532-0582-2
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