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The Longings of Women


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Piercy's ( Gone to Soldiers ) latest novel is one of her best: like all her work, it's a well-crafted and compelling narrative, and it also deftly illuminates a timely theme. In unpretentious but quietly forceful prose, she portrays three memorable women from different backgrounds whose lives plausibly and poignantly intersect. The three heroines are Leila, a middle-aged Boston college professor and writer; her long-suffering and secretly homeless 60-ish housekeeper Mary; and Becky, an ambitious young wife accused of murdering her husband and who is the subject of Leila's new book. All three face problems typical of women ill-used by men and by society: trying to fill the role of the ``good wife''; financial dependency; the low regard accorded older women; and the difficulties of morganatic marriages. Especially wrenching is Piercy's limning of the modest middle-class aspirations of the average woman and the precariousness of a sense of self-worth that is dependent on others. Moving back and forth among her protagonists, Piercy maintains a suspenseful narrative drive which leads to a rending climax. If the ending is a bit implausible, her readers won't hold it against Piercy; in this book she airs subjects of importance not only to women but to the society that encompasses them. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour. (Mar.)

Piercy adds another impressive novel to her already impressive list (e.g., Mars and Her Children , LJ 2/15/92). This time she tackles the issue of women on their own through homelessness, divorce, and even murder. Leila is a middle-aged writer/professor whose husband continually cheats on her. Becky is in jail for conspiring to have her teenage lover kill her husband. And Mary, who finds herself homeless after her divorce, manages to cope by working as a cleaning lady and then living in her employers' homes when she knows they are away. Each woman has ventured outside the accepted ``safe circle'' of what a woman's life is supposed to be so that she can become her own person, no matter how perverse or infamous that might make her. Each woman's story could be a novel on its own. In particular, Piercy's portrait of homelessness is poignant and perceptive. This book deserves bestsellerdom. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/93.-- Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.

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