cover image A Dangerous Woman

A Dangerous Woman

Mary McGarry Morris, Mary McGarry-Morris. Viking Books, $19.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83699-4

This second novel corroborates the remarkable talent McGarry displayed in Vanished , her stunning story of a child kidnapped by two misfits. Here again her protagonist is a woman who is not ``normal,'' 32-year-old, emotionally unstable Martha Horgan. Neither Martha nor her small Vermont town have recovered from an incident in Martha's teens when she was sexually humiliated by a group of boys; ``that night in the woods'' is the leitmotif of her life. Now universally known as ``Marthorgan,'' achingly aware that she is different but unable to govern her inappropriate behavior, Martha is handicapped by an outspoken candor unfettered by tact or guile. Having lost her only job and the benevolent attention of the kindhearted woman who hired her, Martha is obliged to return to the home of her aunt, the young widow of the town's richest citizen, who grudgingly assumes responsibility for her high-strung niece. When a seedy, erratic but charming boozer comes on the scene, Martha's uncontrollable sexual longing and the aftermath of her obsessive love breed inevitable tragedy. McGarry's portrayal of Martha's damaged psyche is unerringly empathetic, honest and compassionate. She turns the same clear-sighted eye on the book's other characters, a richly human mixture, and even the less admirable sometimes redeem themselves with thoughtfulness toward the self-destructive Martha. In the end, as Martha falls through the safety net her impaired condition requires, the community confronts its culpability in failing to provide emotional succor. In this compelling, suspenseful narrative, Morris speaks to larger issues while limning an unforgettable portrait of a vulnerable woman. 50,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection; movie rights to Am blin Entertainment; author tour. (Jan.) .