Picks and Pans Review: Crazy in Love

updated 09/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/19/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Luanne Rice

There is something very frustrating about loving the theme of a book—in this case the pushes and pulls of marital and familial love—while being less than enchanted with the execution. Crazy in Love keeps inspiring hope that it's going to get better, deeper. Oh, here is a nice moment, you think. There's another one. But finally, there's mostly disappointment. Georgiana Swift is the narrator of Rice's second novel (Angels All Over Town was the first). Georgie is the head of the Swift Observatory, a one-woman think tank whose mandate is to observe human nature and write about it in quarterly reports for a foundation that funds her research. She has covered such subjects as three sisters who had traveled around the world together, a man whose new bride drowned in a kayaking accident and a woman accused of helping her terminally ill husband kill himself. She covered with special interest a woman who stabbed her husband's mistress with a butter knife. Georgie likes her work, but it's mostly to fill time until she can be with her lawyer husband, Nick. Crazy in love is what Georgie is. Crazy in love with Nick, whose Wall Street hours are the scourge of romance. With her family, notably 86-year-old grandmother Pem (Penitence) whose "white hair was sparse and wild, her nose prominent. She resembled Einstein." With her mother, Honora, a former TV weather forecaster. With her sister, Clare. With Clare's husband, Donald. With Clare and Donald's two children. "Sometimes," Georgie muses at one point, "I thought of the people I loved and the feelings were so strong I would cry. Sometimes I thought I would die of love for them." Crazy in Love covers a summer when almost everything in Georgie's well-ordered life is upended. The problems with the novel have nothing to do with Rice's ability to wield the language. She can write, often movingly. The problems lie with the characters and plot. It's never clear why Georgie is so obsessive about Nick. So obsessive and doubting. So obsessive, doubting and boring. Rice stresses what a keen observer of human nature Georgie is, how skilled she is at drawing people out, yet there is little evidence of that skill. Worse, Rice uses some unfairly dramatic plot devices to force Georgie to re-examine her life and her marriage. To get right down to it, while this picture of a family on the verge of dissolution and reconstitution should be engrossing, it is too easy to dismiss. (Viking, $18.95)

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