cover image In a Country of Mothers

In a Country of Mothers

A. M. Homes. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (275pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41568-8

In two previous books, Homes ( The Safety of Objects ) has written about people caught in the midst of change and unable (or unwilling), at first, to control or understand it. Naturally, one of her best subjects is adolescence; Jack , her first novel, tells of a boy coming to terms with his estranged father's newfound homosexuality. Here, Homes enlarges her scope with exhilarating assurance, paying equal attention to people young and mature as they pass from what they once were to whoever they must finally be. The novel concerns Jody, a frail but driven young woman pursuing a film career, and Claire, a successful, middle-aged psychiatrist who, many years ago, gave up a child born out of wedlock to foster parents. The third-person narrative shifts between the two women as Jody becomes Claire's intermittent patient and steady obsession, and the doctor, though happily married with a family of her own, becomes convinced that Jody is her long-lost child. But for Homes, this plot twist, despite its considerable suspense, serves mainly as a useful route for exploring the flux, passion and perversity of binding love. She does this with wit, skillful pacing and a sympathy for characters and their dislocations that borders--agreeably--on the uncritical. (May)