Waverly Place

Susan Brownmiller, Author Grove/Atlantic $18.95 (294p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1090-9
The 1987 Greenwich Village child abuse case involving the death of six-year-old Lisa Steinberg is the basis of feminist writer Brownmiller's ( Against Our Will ; Femininity ) painfully absorbing, if somewhat simplistic and sensationalized novel. Obviously intended to reach a wide, commercial audience, the book betrays evidence of hasty writing and thin characterization. Changing the names of the principals and adding ``dialogue, motivations, events, and characters based on her own understanding of battery and abuse,'' Brownmiller constructs a portrait of a man's brutality and a woman's destructive dependence. Criminal lawyer Barney Kantor is a psychopathic bully, conman, chiseler and cocaine addict; insecure, self-hating children's book editor Judith Winograd has a need to be dominated and abused; she's also a heroin addict. During the 17 years the couple live together, Kantor establishes a pattern of physical battery followed by grand gestures of contrition. When an adoption scam brings two babies into their lives, the children, especially Melinda, become innocent victims. Although her attempts to show the ways in which family, friends, colleagues, social workers, neighbors and school personnel fail to act or be heeded are disappointingly glib, Brownmiller builds narrative momentum as the events spiral to the final horror. But she goes too far with offensive portraits of the protagonists' parents, drawing them as stereotypically crass, ignorant and insensitive. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; first serial to Ladies' Home Journal; Literary Guild main selection; author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-451-16324-0
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