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The lives of three women suffering from physical and emotional pain intertwine in this third novel by Levin ( Shimoni's Lover , LJ 9/15/87, and Water Dancer , LJ 8/82), which is set against the backdrop of collegiate competitive swimming. Brenna Allen is the swim coach whose tough exterior and desire to win belies her inner suffering at the death of her longtime lover, Kay. Babe Delgado is the only survivor of a plane crash in which her entire Olympic swim team has perished. Ellie Marks is Allen's protegee and captain of the swim team. No one would doubt the sincerity and sensitivity of this tale of lesbian and human relationships. But its message is marred by its length and slow tempo. It pokes along and never gets the edge necessary to sustain interest and engross the reader. For libraries wishing to add to their collections of gay and lesbian themes.-- Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.
Levin ( Water Dancer ) explores the interconnectedness of mind and muscle in this uncommonly expressive, sensual novel of three female athletes. Each character follows a cycle of pain, loneliness and rebirth; each applies a resolve born of years of physical and mental conditioning to the healing process. Brenna Allen, a steely swim coach at Northern Massachusetts State University, inspires her team's ambition, fear and resentment. As she pushes each swimmer to excel, she never admits that she is grieving for a longtime lover who has died of cancer, nor that her lover was a woman. Dynamic, solitary swim-team captain Ellie Marks knows she lacks the body structure of a top competitor, but she gives all her energy to swimming; otherwise, out of the water, she battles the fear of informing her parents, Holocaust survivors, that she is a lesbian. Cuban-American swimmer Mildred ``Babe'' Delgado, a onetime Olympic hopeful, comes to the university on a scholarship after surviving an oceanic plane crash that killed almost all of her teammates. Scarred, out of shape and dispirited, Babe needs Brenna's gruff encouragement and Ellie's companionship. Some of Levin's flourishes verge on melodrama, but her lyricism and compelling narrative more than compensate. With her sensitive depictions of lesbian sexuality, Levin might be the female counterpart of Paul Monette; her novel reverberates in the imagination long after the the reader has turned the final pages. (Jan.)