cover image Crane Spread Wings

Crane Spread Wings

Susan Trott. Doubleday Books, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-385-49234-8

Drawing its title and its unifying conceit from the tai chi exercises its heroine performs daily, Trott's (The Holy Man's Journey) charming, lighthearted novel is a comedy of errors about a woman who can't make up her mind. Plucky young art historian Jane Croy (given name Effie Crackalbee) is in search of identity. As she puts it, ""Even if I couldn't create a novel or... a work of art, I could create myself."" The 23-year-old newlywed has just left her husband, Harvard instructor Alan, who spends (in Jane's mind) too much time playing tennis in their coastal New England town and ""spouting"" to his admirers, and too little time writing his novel. Jane doesn't get far before she meets recently divorced Gled Saltonstall and--using her maiden name and neglecting to mention that she is married--accepts Gled's offer to take care of his son, Danny. Gled lives in the same town as Alan, and Jane finds herself caught in a double life, living alternately with Gled--who has fallen for her--and Alan, until she becomes pregnant and moves to the West Coast to escape the muddle. The novel takes a misguided but brief turn for the solemn when hit-and-run driver puts Danny into a coma and Effie impetuously (also illegally) marries the inconsolable Gled. As the characters untangle the web that ties them together, Effie is forced to own up to her bigamy--and her expectations of the men in her life. Trott has created an amusing cast of characters, not least her free-spirited, generous, flibbertigibbet heroine. Despite the preposterous flirtation with tragedy and the occasional New Age self-fulfillment piety (to which not all of Trott's fans will object), this otherwise madcap exploration of love and art is sure to win Trott new readers with its unpretentious, breezy appeal. Author tour. (July)