cover image Promises


Belva Plain. Delacorte Press, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-31110-6

Family values and feminism make an uneasy marriage in this undisguised morality play about adultery. Fifteen years ago, Margaret Crane gave up the dream of medical school to devote herself to her husband, Adam, an engineer. Beautiful, loyal, savvy in bed, cheerful in pregnancy and tirelessly sensitive in motherhood, Margaret now unknowingly loses her husband to the crude and grasping Randi Bunting, who enjoyed an intense affair with Adam back in college and has appeared in their small Midwestern town. Meanwhile, Margaret's beloved cousin Nina falls for another married man. Margaret's moralizing provokes a schism between the two women. If Plain (The Carousel) had shaped the cousins' conflict as a loving one between sense and sensibility, with each sister learning from the other, this novel might have come to life. But only Nina has to grow--into the realization that every act of adultery has a victim, the betrayed spouse. Margaret remains unchanged by the tumultuous events in the story, including a death; she comes off not as a human being but as a collection of unshakable beliefs. Still, Plain conveys well the hurt and bewilderment of the three Crane children. And she understands, and makes palpable, those times when the illusion of control collapses. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selections. (July)