August 13, 2001 12:00 PM

By Carol Muske-Dukes

After years of lies and off-the-wall behavior from her husband, Russell, housewife Boyd Schaeffer has had it. When he leaves their daughter unattended at a playground in their Minnesota town, claiming he got stuck in the Sneezy statue while playing hide-and-seek, Boyd tells him, “Do me a favor, Russell. Die.” He promptly complies, succumbing to a heart attack during a tennis match. (Sadly, Muske-Dukes’s husband, the actor David Dukes of Sisters, died in 2000 in exactly the same way soon after she completed this novel.)

Boyd’s quest to understand what happened is a sparely told tale that alternates with funeral director “Will Youngren’s battle to accept the death of his sister. Although the author’s message—that a person can never know another person—is trite, Muske-Dukes, who is also a poet, deftly maps the survivors’ landscape with writing that, like poetry, artfully leaves much unsaid. (Random House, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Heartfelt writing, Hallmark ideas

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