Picks and Pans Review: Isabels Bed

updated 03/27/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Elinor Lipman

For 12 years, writer manqué Harriet Mahoney has been looking for love in all the wrong places—that is, in the arms of Kenny Grossman, a self-absorbed bagel baker who suddenly dumps her for a younger woman. Frizzy-haired, frazzled and still unpublished at 41, Harriet flees Manhattan for Cape Cod, Mass., taking the job of ghostwriter for the infamous Isabel Krug, who wants to turn her headline-grabbing affair with a paunchy billionaire (he was caught flagrante delicto and shot dead by his wife) into a juicy best-seller.

Isabel is a pistol—a sexy, earthy blonde with a big heart, who can teach timid Harriet a thing or two about going for the gusto. Then there is Isabel's curious con-artist husband, Costas, and cutie-pie handyman Pete and the house they all share—a high-tech marvel with cylindrical rooms on the dunes of Truro Beach. Navigating in this new world, Harriet comes to understand her head and heart.

Lipman (The Way Men Act) shows a sure touch chronicling the women's budding friendship and their everyday rituals—soothing baths, visits to the hair salon and intimate conversations over late-night peanut-butter sandwiches. The prose is spare and breezy, but there's wry wisdom beneath the chuckles; this is a warm, affecting tale about one smart woman letting go of her dumb choices and fumbling toward love. When Harriet gets her man—and finds her real calling—you don't begrudge her a thing, not even a bagel crumb. (Pocket, $20)

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