Picks and Pans Review: Exposure

updated 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/22/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Kathryn Harrison

On the surface, Ann Rogers's life seems picture-perfect. At 33, she has striking good looks, designer clothes, a spacious Manhattan loft and a husband who loves her. She even has a job she enjoys, filming weddings and society parties for a tony video company. But something is very, very wrong. Between assignments Ann blitzes through the best stores—shoplifting. She ducks into bathrooms to do speed. She's cavalier about managing her diabetes, so her vision is deteriorating.

For years Ann's emotional life has been as carefully controlled—and as false—as her videos, in which all disturbing elements are edited out. As this compelling psychological novel opens, her coping mechanisms are collapsing in the face of an event that threatens to release the demons she has been trying so desperately to repress. A major museum is mounting a retrospective of the work of her late father, a photographer who made his name with voyeuristic pictures of young Ann, often nude and posed as if dead. Slowly and surely Harrison, who also explored the underbelly of family life in her first novel, Thicker than Water, leads us down the dark tunnel of Ann's memory. Her lonely Texas childhood and traumatic past gradually emerge, like prints developing, until they assume nightmarish vividness.

Ann's story is in some ways too studied, the novel's images of vision and death a bit obvious, the psychology overly pat. Yet in the end the character's disintegration is like the scene of a spectacular car wreck, lurid but impossible to resist. (Random House. $20)

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