In her previous novel (Life Before Death), Frucht explored a woman's attempt to open herself completely to wonder and sorrow before she was consumed by cancer. Her fifth book inverts that premise: here, a woman who has already passed into the realm of spirits fervently wrestles with the love and grief that bind her to her young son, Tip, whose earthly existence she exchanged for her own at his birth. In life, Polly Baymiller was pert, game and un-self-consciously smug: a housewife to a good-looking man ""as savvy with me as he was in business,"" and a mother to three sets of twins when she became pregnant with Tip. As a ghost, watching her husband turn away from Tip out of anger over his role in her death, Polly yearns to guide her handsome son through his youth. Yet she is constantly pulled away by ""Night, my capricious dance partner, vain in its black tuxedo,"" who plunks her down to observe and assuage the grief of other mortals--including the motherless five-year-old son of a crude truck driver, the boy's wayward uncle and a pregnant woman whose husband dies in a plane crash Polly may inadvertently have prompted (since ""ghosts don't know how to be ghosts right away"" and must find ""the routes that might lead us to rest""). Known for her fluid lyricism, Frucht relates Polly's meandering journey in sensuous prose that verges on preciousness, in part because the conventional characters and vague plot do not match its richness. Her characters' awakenings to life's small miracles and nagging regrets, punctuated by small gestures toward a plot, leave the reader not with the sense of contemplative completion the author apparently intends, but with the disheartening feeling that, amid all its exposition, this too-long novel gives up the ghost. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000 Release date: 01/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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