Picks and Pans Review: Moon Tide

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

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

By Dawn Clifton Tripp

Moon shadow on desolate beaches, waves crashing on the North Atlantic, a hurricane brewing on the horizon: Nature steals the show in this luminous first novel about three women and the men in their lives. The slow-developing plot—which heads for a thrilling climax built around a massive hurricane in 1938—begins in 1913, when Elizabeth Lowe is a tolerated outsider who moves to a Massachusetts fishing village and continues to live there with her relatives after her husband dies.

Just as the tide follows the moon, the women of Moon Tide ebb and flow around the men of the town. It's a lovely metaphor on which to base a story, though Tripp's style can be clumsy: "She could feel the curvature in space around him that his dreams made," she writes of Elizabeth and her husband, Henry. Ultimately, even though Tripp understands landscape better than the human heart, it's worth weathering a few gaffes. (Random House, $24.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Evocative setting, sketchy writing

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