Picks and Pans Review: Juffie Kane

updated 04/03/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/03/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Beverly S. Martin

It's hard to avoid high hopes for a novel whose first page contains the following: "There were a few who truly grieved for Juffie Kane; they found it hard to imagine life without her white-hot star lighting up their personal sky. Karen Rice, for instance. Karen would never forget the moment she heard that her oldest and dearest friend was dead. She was lying in Juffie's bed, with Paul Dumont, Juffie's husband. At the age of 29, Karen had just achieved her first orgasm." Martin does not, however, sustain that prologue's high-camp promise.

The first few chapters aren't bad. The book flashes back 30 years to Juffie's birth—she is born to a Jewish father and Italian Catholic mother during a demonstration protesting the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Juffie (born Jennifer) grows up smart, talented, beautiful and adored—particularly by her mobster grandfathers, Pa and Pop. It is an idyllic childhood until Pa and Pop are imprisoned. Juffie is then raped and impregnated by a hood, leaving her with a "monumental, overwhelming, permanent rage." But Juffie finds true happiness in the theater: "No childhood dreams had prepared Juffie for how much she was going to adore acting, for the way it would fill her life and assuage needs in her that hadn't been met since the halcyon days of childhood." Naturally, Juffie becomes a huge star, the toast of Broadway, the talk of the town, but at a high price. Juffie Kane is fine as long as its heroine is portrayed as tough and single-minded. She just doesn't stay tough and single-minded long enough, and based on snatches of dialogue, she has the worst taste in scripts. The book is also saddled with writing so wooden that anyone who wants to build a bonfire of inanities can start here. (Bantam, $18.95)

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