cover image SECOND CHANCES


Marlene Fanta Shyer, . . Kensington, $6.99 (383pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-791-1

Short-story writer and first-time novelist Shyer spins more storylines than she can manage in this richly detailed but sluggish family drama. Set in Scarsdale, N.Y., the narrative opens with a car accident that sends Gilbert Kessler into a coma. His wife, Julie, who was driving, emerges uninjured. Wracked with guilt, Julie is unable to let go of her dying husband, but her daughters—Karen, Susanna and Gaby—refuse to let their mother wallow in self-pity; they suggest she take tango lessons. Julie reluctantly agrees, and she soon finds herself falling in love with her much younger instructor. Meanwhile, Gaby is torn between a married lover and her fiancé; Susanna can't seem to come to terms with her German husband's love for his fatherland as well as his refusal to have a child with her; and Karen realizes that being married to a much older man holds less appeal than it did when she was younger. Although Shyer meticulously describes each character's predicament, bland dialogue and generic observations about life keep the women from finding their own voices and truly coming alive. Unexpected plot twists compensate somewhat for the novel's slow pacing, but a hurried and abrupt conclusion will leave readers with more questions than answers. (June)