Picks and Pans Review: In the Palomar Arms

updated 06/13/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/13/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Hilma Wolitzer

The most remarkable thing about this novel is that despite its large number of characters, all are lovingly defined. At the center is a triangle: A woman, a part-time college student who has a job in an old folks' home, is having an affair with a man who no longer loves his wife yet doesn't want to leave home because of his children. Not only are these characters—including the wife—oddly endearing, but their emotional lives have a complex vividness. The young woman, for instance, refuses to think of herself as a home-breaker; the man cannot understand why he still loves his in-laws. The author also provides tender portrayals of the elderly characters. One old woman in the home suffers terrible infirmities, yet looks forward to the celebration of her 100th birthday and life long beyond. Wolitzer, as she did in her 1980 novel Hearts, has a marvelous way of writing about people who are neither rich nor poor, who must work hard, who seem rootless—like most Americans. She loves these flawed characters, and that affection is contagious. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14.95)

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