cover image Where Love Goes

Where Love Goes

Joyce Maynard. Crown Publishers, $23 (338pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70177-5

Maynard's precocious debut 23 years ago at age 18 was founded on unsparing commentary on contemporary American life--but the same reliance on pop culture and brand names reduces her new novel to a paean to the middlebrow. Claire Temple is part Martha Stewart, part supermother, a children's museum director in a New England town. A curiously colorless character, she is involved in a series of relationships with vividly drawn--if not very competent--men. Ex-husband Sam fights dirty for custody, paints her as the heavy and never contributes enough money. Mickey, met through a personal ad, is Claire's one true love, but he communicates with her only by phone and, in any case, says he doesn't like children. Tim is a penniless biology teacher with a sad-sack seven-year-old: it is the loss of his child (reminiscent of The Good Mother)that proves the one compelling story element here. Meanwhile, Claire's children have the requisite melodramatic flourishes: a blue-haired, nose-ringed friend; scrapes with the law; a pregnancy scare; an auto accident. As an everywoman, Claire rings true, if familiar, but her ruminations on the way love dies are provocative. Literary Guild alternate; author tour. (Aug.)