cover image Onion


Kate Braestrup. Viking Books, $17.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82888-3

Though sprightly, this first novel lacks the substantial center that its dense encirclements of theological musing lead the reader to expect. The author's intellectual elaborations often seem banal and fail to cohere dramatically within the narrative, yet there are flashes of wit and insight. Ellen Elliot, 23, has dropped out of her feminist theological studies at Georgetown to marry Saul, a city cop, and stay at home with their baby son, Owen (Onion). Alternating between the present and Ellen's undergraduate past, the spiraling narrative focuses on the heroine's bewilderment about her sexual identity and the role of women in contemporary society. A chance meeting in a restaurant with her former physics professor, who eyes her with lust, prompts Ellen to invent a series of dialogues in which, amidst throes of carnal abandon, she delivers herself of lengthy and generally pedestrian theological pronouncements to her ever-receptive lover. When her imaginary relationship moves into the realm of the actual, Ellen must decide if she wants to realize her fantasies. Meanwhile, the reader has the opportunity to enjoy Braestrup's idiosyncratic characters and their quirky, witty dialogue. Given these strengths, it's a pity the author hasn't better dramatized and solidified the ideational content of her narrative. First serial to Mademoiselle. (Feb.)