Picks and Pans Review: A Quirky Tale of Doomed Love

updated 04/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/27/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

LAURA RIDER'S MASTERPIECE
by Jane Hamilton |

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REVIEWED BY VICK BOUGHTON

NOVEL
After 12 years of marriage to kind, handsome and indefatigable Charlie, Laura Rider decides she's had it with sex. Her husband has worn her out with his attentiveness and creativity. But modern relationships still intrigue Laura, and because she's bored with running her successful rural Wisconsin plant farm, she hits on the idea of becoming a romance writer. First she reads books about romance-novel writing. Then, to give herself a better grasp of the genre, she prods Charlie, not the brightest bulb in the window box, to befriend Jenna Faroli, a local talk-radio host whom he met by chance when they pulled their cars over to look at what might or might not have been UFOs hovering above a pasture. Smart, thoughtful and desperate for a satisfying roll in the hay, Jenna falls for Charlie and his bedroom talents; he, in turn, is smitten with her warmth and responsiveness.

The book's title is wickedly ironic. Laura, clueless and self-involved, gets no closer to writing a masterpiece than attending a writer's conference. Yet in this witty, loopy story of doomed love, Hamilton, the author of A Map of the World, gives us a beguiling little gem.

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