Picks and Pans Review: Where or When

updated 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/14/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Anita Shreve

Shreve's third novel is a lyrical and poetic rendering of a middle-aged affair set in motion by a jolt of memory. Charles Callahan is sifting through the Sunday paper when he sees a photo of a woman poet he recognizes as the girl he fell in love with at a Catholic summer camp 31 years before. He covers the photo with his arm, shielding it from his wife, and his infidelity with Siân Richards begins.

Through a series of letters and sexual encounters, Charles and Siân stoke the fires of memory and resurrect the past, their desire "fraught with endless complications: a maze of responsibilities and commitments, deceptions and betrayals." Both are bred-in-the-bone Catholics, married with children. Their lives unravel as their relationship evolves.

Where Or When is a hauntingly written study of time and eros, but the plight of the lovers inspires little empathy. Their involvement seems selfish, the result of failure and weakness more than passion. Their end is not shocking but merely inevitable. (Harcourt Brace, $19.95)

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