cover image Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties

Susanna Moore. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (231pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58280-1

While Moore's previous books dealing with the offspring of dysfunctional Hawaiian families ( My Old Sweetheart ; The Whiteness of Bones ) have earned well-deserved praise, this third novel is the best yet, more complex and self-assured, richer in plot and character and written in tensile but sensuous prose. Several themes from the earlier books reappear here: the loss of Hawaiian culture; the oppressive effects of sexual inequality; the burden of responsibility. Clio Lynott is torn between her responsibility to the spirits of her ancient Hawaiian family and her desire to leave the isolation of her beautiful island home to ``swim in the current'' of modern life. The epitome of a courageous, resourceful ``island girl,'' Clio has managed to survive her upbringing by a coldhearted mother, a truly evil stepmother and a callous, uncaring father. At 13 she runs away to her Aunt Emma, who determines to make Clio the repository of the family myths and legends. Clio is both fearless--because she is naive about the powerlessness of women in masculine society--and fearful, because she is haunted by the legacies of the women in her family. When she impulsively marries an American movie star, she is unequipped to cope with a decadent society and her husband's brutality. Moore's account of Clio's coming of age is both unsparing and lyrical, as she fuses the worlds of appearance and reality in an intensely imagined narrative. 35,000 first printing. (Sept.)