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Split Skirt


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After two short story collections ( Athletes and Artists , New York Univ. Pr., 1987; The Quick: A Novella & Stories , LJ 1/92), Rossi's first novel is told in the alternating voices of two very different women who spend three days in jail together. Rita, approaching 30, hoped that marriage to Alex would help her settle down after years of drugs and partying, but dissatisfaction with the relationship and her boss's memo forbidding split skirts in the office set her off on a course that culminates in an arrest for drunken driving and possession of cocaine. Her cellmate is the fiftyish, wealthy, and conservative Mrs. Tyler, whose compulsive shoplifting finally caught up with her. Sharing their stories helps both women achieve the proper perspective on their situations. Although the novel runs out of steam toward the end, the good writing brings the characters to life. This entertaining novel should do well in public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.-- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle

This uneven novel by the author of The Quick spans three days in the lives of two New Jersey women. Incensed over her boss's ban on split skirts in the office, 29-year-old, tough-mouthed Rita goes out to a bar and is arrested for drunk driving and cocaine possession. When middle-aged Mrs. Tyler refuses to allow her wealthy husband to bail her out of yet another shoplifiting charge, she ends up sharing Rita's jail cell. Examining their lives and marriages, the women find that their problems are remarkably similar despite outward differences. The ensuing first-person flashbacks combined with reluctant affirmations of sisterhood and friendship are, at times, compelling, but--in the manner of daytime soaps--often predictable. Particularly hackneyed is a subplot in which Rita and Mrs. Tyler have a heartwarming encounter with two Puerto Rican prostitutes. By depriving Rita of a surname and Mrs. Tyler of a given name, Rossi adds an artificial note to an already schematic plot. Having opted for quirky character portrayal rather than hard-edged reality, she succeeds in transforming a potentially disturbing fictional setting into a literary comfort zone. (May)

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