Picks and Pans Review: Crossroads

updated 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mary Morris

A Chicagoan who teaches creative writing at Princeton, Morris also has written a first novel about a woman rejected by her husband. It lacks the celebrity quotient of Ephron's, as well as the superficial self-revelation, because Morris has never wed, let alone gone through such a public breakup. Her book is, nonetheless, far more moving, graceful and convincing. The main character, a city planner, is so vengeful that she begins to joke about idolizing John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald when her lawyer husband walks out on her to live with one of their old friends. The pain and confusion she feels are compounded by the fact that she doesn't know how she really feels about either her estranged husband or her new lover. At one point she admits, "I have loved only gentle failures like my brother, successful tyrants like my father, smart women who were bundles of doubt and fear. I have journeyed between weakness and strength, kindness and power, and I know that it is not easy to be a woman and it is not easy to be a man and all we can really do is the best we can." Nothing melodramatic happens (though there's a touching meeting between the woman and her husband's mistress). People go into emotional convulsions over trivial events and loose ends are left all over at the end. Especially for people who are tired of overwritten prose, this is a beautifully understated novel that will be difficult to forget. (Houghton Mifflin, $13.95)

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