Picks and Pans Review: After You've Gone

updated 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Alice Adams

In the title story of this witty, beautifully articulated collection, a successful, tidy-minded San Francisco lawyer whose poet lover has just left her becomes the pen pal and confidante of her ex-beau's new girlfriend.

"The truth is, for a while I managed very well indeed," the lawyer writes to her dear departed poet.

"I did very well indeed until I began to get these letters from your new person (I reject 'lover' as too explicit, and, knowing you, I am not at all sure that 'friend' would be applicable). Anyway, Sally Ann."

"Child's Play" focuses on a lifelong friendship between trustful Laura Lee and scared Prudence (who as a girl "was so afraid of her mother that she could not have named that emotion, fear, in much the same way that extremely lonely people often do not quite know that loneliness is what is wrong"). The girls' relationship almost—but only almost—succeeds in insulating them against their parents' alcoholism.

The characters in After You've Gone—for the most part bright, attractive and likable people—are in pain, in flux, in love with unworthy types. And Adams, all grace and well-calibrated irony, makes it impossible not to care what happens to them. (Knopf, $18.95)

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