cover image A Woman's Place

A Woman's Place

Barbara Delinsky. HarperCollins Publishers, $22 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017506-1

In the spirit of Kramer vs. Kramer, sociologist Delinsky's new novel (after The Passions of Chelsea Kane) explores the drama and pain unleashed when affluent parents battle for the hearts, minds and custody of their kids. The twist here is that an overachieving mother risks losing custody and having to pay alimony to an underachieving father. Successful businesswoman Claire Raphael returns home to Gloucester, Mass., from Cleveland, where she was visiting her ailing mother, Connie, only to find that she has been served with an Order to Vacate her house on the grounds that she is not a responsible mother. Husband Dennis relentlessly pursues divorce, custody of the children and substantial alimony that would include a hefty cut of Claire's franchised furniture business, WickerWise. As the two square off, Claire seeks comfort in the arms of business partner Brody, and Dennis with lawyer Phoebe. The kids muddle through, Johnny battling cynicism, Kikit allergy attacks. With a subplot about sister Rona emerging from Connie's shadow, the story heads inevitably toward the legal decision about custody. Along the way, the intricacies of this type of case are illuminated. With the threat of a chauvinistic judge's decision looming, Claire gropes towards an understanding of her disintegrating marriage. Delinsky writes a gushy prose peopled with expected, albeit sometimes role-reversed, characters that undermine her novel's literary value. As a dramatization of the legal problems faced by some modern women, however, her story is notable and likely to garner attention. (Mar.)