cover image Taking Leave

Taking Leave

Kit Wright, Janet Beeler Shaw. Viking Books, $17.95 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-670-80054-4

With the intrusion of a charming stranger into their lives, the bonds keeping the Brenner family together are first stretched to their limits and then tragically broken. Dr. Will Brenner married Laura Hale thinking he could save her from anorexia; because their parents are dead, Laura's teenage sister Jo lives with them. When the three travel to Austria, they meet Thomas Trawick, good-looking but with a mean streak, who pursues Jo back to Chicago. A chain reaction is set off, giving the novel speed and drama: Jo breaks away from her overbearing older sister; Laura and Will realize that they are incapable of helping one another; Will and Jo must confront their mutual attraction. Jo's confused adolescence is well-drawn, but Will's dilemma and its conclusion are cliched. Shaw, author of the short-story collection Some of the Things I Did Not Do, writes with a certain intensity, but the novel as a whole is overwritten, melodramatic and, ultimately, unresolved. (April)