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Set in northern California, this sympathetic but slow-moving first novel traces the struggles of teenaged Lisa Sandham, torn between her divorced parents. Lisa's mother, Elisabeth, petulant and controlling, is accustomed to the limelight--she acts in summer stock and light opera, and plays the cello. She coaches Lisa to tell lawyers that she doesn't wish to live with her father, a pilot. Bewildered and anxious, Lisa does as she's told, her subsequent guilt exacerbated when her father accuses her of betraying him. Rivalry complicates Lisa and Elisabeth's relationship when they attend a fancy-dress ball given during an annual local Vintage Festival. There Lisa attracts the attention of her mother's boyfriend David, just back from Saudi Arabia, who begins a halfhearted flirtation with the girl. Lisa's unhappiness emerges in repetitive imagery of fists, both actual and metaphorical; e.g., ``a.fist inside her punching out against her stomach and rib cage.'' Latiolais's tendency to explore the minutiae of Lisa's feelings results in a narrative that is stiflingly overexplicated and occasionally precious. (May)
Along with 16-year-old Lisa, the sensitive, self-contained protagonist of this engrossing first novel, the reader moves back and forth between that young woman's rich inner world and the shifting configuration of relationships that form her outer one, where people are always tentatively circling around one another's elusive realities. Even now, five years after her parents' divorce, Lisa lives with unresolved feelings of guilt, loss, and confusion. Her struggle to become a separate person is decisively catalyzed when her father suggests she come to live with him and his companion, Mary, for her senior year, and when her mother's former lover, David, just back from two years abroad, reenters Lisa's life with some ambiguous messages of his own. There is a profound respect for the integrity of personality here, conveyed in a sensuous, lyrical style that is most appealing. A deft and moving performance.-- Elise Chase, Forbes Lib., Northampton, Mass .