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The Puzzle Bark Tree
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Gertler's follow-up to her well-received first novel, Jimmy's Girl, treads a too familiar trail: a middle-aged woman whose marriage has gone flat finds love with a childhood friend. Where Jimmy's Girl succeeded in summoning the hot passions of first love, this time neither the mystery of a childhood tragedy nor the love story catch fire. Grace Hammond Barnett, 44, is stunned to receive an early morning phone call from her sister, Melanie, informing her that their parents have committed suicide. Grace's doctor husband, Adam, is unsympathetic and too busy to accompany her to her parents' home in upstate New York. Grace and Melanie comfort each other, and admit to themselves that they were really raised by the family housekeeper; their parents barely noticed them or tolerated their existence. At the reading of the will, a mystery unfolds: Grace has been left a house in Sabbath Landing, N.Y., a lakeside cabin no one knew existed. As tensions between Grace and Adam mount, they separate and Grace goes to check out the cabin. There she finds handsome Luke Keegan, who reveals a Hammond family secret to Grace. Gertler tries too hard to build suspense in Grace's search for the truth behind her parents' emotionally inaccessible behavior. Luke is so sensitive and romantic, Adam so insensitive and self-absorbed, that neither man appears real. Mature women with an itch to find young passion again are not likely to be satisfied by this strained effort. Agent, Marcy Posner. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Will appeal to everyone who has had and lost a first love."

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