September 12, 1983 12:00 PM

by Judith Rossner

“August comes and you pick me up and toss me back into the middle of the ocean,” the young patient says fearfully to her analyst, who is about to go on vacation. The analyst is in her early 40s. The 18-year-old girl, who has already been seeing a male analyst for four years, enrolls in Barnard, has an affair with an older man and begins to come to terms with her clouded origins; her mother killed herself and her father, a homosexual, drowned while sailing with his lover. The girl has been raised by a lesbian couple in Vermont, one of whom is her father’s masculine sister. Dreams, fears, lovers, sex, suicide, death, depression, abortion—the young girl’s voice conveys all these things in a breathless rush, when she’s not crying. The greatest impact of this book is the way her revelations spill out onto the pages, surprising the reader again and again. A subplot in August concerns the female analyst, whose credits include two failed marriages, a rebellious daughter and two sons. All her friends—and a married lover she takes for a while—are analysts also, and in this story they are a confused and confusing, sorry lot of human beings. August is wonderfully absorbing mostly because Rossner, the author of Looking for Mr. Goodbar, is so clever at making the reader feel like a secret witness to forbidden, often lurid patient-to-psychiatrist information. (Houghton Mifflin, $15.95)

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