Picks and Pans Review: Hot Flashes

updated 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Barbara Raskin

This overly ambitious novel is about Sukie, Diana, Joanne, Elaine and...well, nothing less than all the white, educated, female Depression babies who grew up to be failed "superwomen." "We are a generation of Type-A, A-List, Number IO-type women," Raskin writes with characteristic hyberbole. Although the novel comes together in stretches, it seems contrived and artificial. It reads like a book written by committee during a well-organized consciousness-raising session in the hope of turning out a best-seller such as The Group. The plot revolves around Sukie Smilow Amram, a journalist and novelist, who has just died of a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving two children, an ex-husband and a quasi-autobiographical novel called Death Sentences. Friends converge on her D.C. home to bury their fallen sister, who, dumped after a long marriage by hubby Max, had flirted with insanity. The personal journal she also left behind enables her spirit to rattle around communing with the mourners, who shamelessly devour her memoirs as they try to come to terms with their dead friend. Conflicts and confrontations between the feminists, Sukie's ex-husband and last lover, ex-husband and irate father, angry daughter and dead mother keep the book lively. The narrator, Diana Sargeant, a menopausal anthropology professor at Columbia suffering the hot flashes of the title, offers some astute observations. ("Because so many of us were both gifted and spoiled, we grew accustomed to the kind of unconditional love...lavished upon us and that's what eventually got us into such big trouble.") She also offers some inane drivel. ("Although we tried desperately hard to Ban the Bomb, Stop the Draft, and End the War, we always clapped during any performance of Peter Pan to show we believed in fairies—just in case.") Raskin, who wrote the 1973 novel Loose Ends, has a good ear for dialogue and a good eye for life's absurdities. If she had narrowed her focus to Sukie's journal, the book might have been a small gem. Instead she generalizes with such abandon that she too often winds up with overblown self-parody. (St. Martin's, $18.95)

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