Picks and Pans Review: Safe Conduct

updated 06/21/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/21/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Elizabeth Benedict

As the child of a loveless marriage, Kate Lurie has always been skittish about emotional entanglements. Though she is married, her work—documentary filmmaking—keeps her safely detached from her subjects. This fragile means of self-preservation begins to dissolve, however, just as she and her husband, Mac, a former diplomat, are preparing to leave Washington for Turkey on a film project. Before his marriage, Mac had fallen in love with a vibrant Russian woman, Lida, while on assignment in Leningrad. Their affair lasted three weeks, and 15 years later, Lida calls. Now married and living in France, she wants to see Mac. The three meet in Brussels, where Kate is drawn into the undercurrent of Macs unfinished romantic business.

In this, her third novel, Benedict makes skillful use of similar events in her own life (see box). The story's possible love triangle forces Kate to resolve the fear of intimacy that is crippling her relationship with Mac. By threading vivid memories of an alienated childhood with Kates fantasies of Mac and Lida's torrid yet doomed affair in the decayed, romantic city of Leningrad, Benedict has fashioned a compelling story of a woman finding comfort by facing her demons. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $21)

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