cover image The Woman Who Was Not All There

The Woman Who Was Not All There

Paula Sharp. HarperCollins Publishers, $17.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015989-4

This amusing first novel about an eccentric Southern family is a slow starter. The irregular and somewhat self-conscious rhythms of the narrative take a bit of getting used to, but after the first 100 pages or so readers who are still with it will realize that they have been drawn into the story by a steady and insistent series of images and characterizations that do, after all, add up to a memorable and witty first effort. Marjorie LeBlanc and her four children scrabble along in their shabby house in Durham, N.C. Byron Coffin, Marjorie's ex-husband``Mr. Big''is long gone, and the children have little sense of him beyond an occasional inappropriate gift that arrives in the mail. The story takes place over several years' time, during which the children grow up and Marjorie develops a sense of herself. Told in episodic chunks, the book is freighted with a little too much of everything: vivid descriptions, fantastic plot developments and pointed explanations are at times burdensome. There's a good story here, and any flaws are those of a writer of obvious ability whose enthusiasm occasionally outweighs her judgment. With experience, Sharp should reveal first-rate talent. (September)