Blue Heaven

Elaine Kagan, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-43598-3
Three generations of women struggle to decipher their own passions and desires by comparing themselves to one another in this spirited novel from the author of The Girls. Mollie, 80, rendered incompetent by a series of small strokes, reminisces lucidly about her love of Jule Ventimiglia, whose gambling addiction destroyed their marriage in ways that their ethnic differences (Mollie's Jewish) did not. Their daughter, abrasive, wisecracking comedy writer Gillian, remembers a lost love of her own--married comedian Tony Ronzoni--even as her marriage to stolid Christopher Hall threatens to disintegrate. Gillian's daughter, Clare, an L.A. 16-year-old (""My mother's going to Kansas City to see my grandma. Like out of nowhere--you know?""), grapples with issues of commitment and jealousy while trying to figure out whether or not she's liable to commit the mistakes of her mother and grandmother. The story takes place over eight days during which Gillian is in Kansas City to face Mollie's decline. Kagan shifts among three first-person narratives, creating a richly voiced network of monologues and recollections. That the seams of the whole into which these riffs are sewn are sometimes ragged is less important than the appeal of the three principals. Kagan draws her characters with a fluency and good humor that almost disguises the insight she brings to the task as well. Literary Guild selection. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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