Picks and Pans Review: The Pursuit of Alice Thrift

updated 08/04/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/04/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Elinor Lipman

Lipman is a diva of dialogue; her repartee flashes like Zorro's sword. It's voiced through the narrator, a socially inept surgical intern named Alice Thrift. When it comes to fashion, she couldn't tell a Missoni from a calzone. Emotionally she is a blank: "I wish," says her mom, "there was an electronic readout of your thoughts like the headlines in Times Square." Alice attracts a fudge salesman named Ray who wants to marry her, but he may have ulterior motives.

There are serious issues, such as the sleep deprivation facing young docs, but the book's delights are in watching Alice's stumble into romance. Ray suggests she catch some TV to learn how "normal conversation flows back and forth." And after a kiss, he asks Alice "why I looked as if I were trying to solve a math problem." (Random House, $23.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Hot Pursuit

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