The most astonishing aspect in Joy Fieldings novel about four white American middle class women isnt the profoundly hypnotic buildup to a brutalbut commonplacemurder. Whats amazing, and a little depressing, is the lack of real change in the lives of women since novels like The Womens Room and The Color Purple.

Each woman has an appealing young husband on the verge of success and a two-year-old daughter. Susan and Owen have Ariel; Vicki, a lawyer, and Jeremy have Kristen; former Miss Cincinnati Barbara and husband Ron have Tracey; Chris and her abusive husband, Tony, have Montana.

The husbands and daughters, though background figures, are fully drawn and clearly portrayed. The story centers on how the characters deal with self-esteem or lack of it, and their individual resolutions. The underlying reasons for violent rage disappoint, but remain thought provoking. This is prime reading, if not light nor happily ever after. (Oct., 400 pp., $25.00)

Reviewed by: 
Gerry Benninger