July 29, 1985 12:00 PM

by Gloria Norris

The narrator of this often funny novel, Marianne, is a Mississippi woman just awakening to the fact that although her husband is rich and handsome and practically perfect, their marriage was a mistake. She runs off to New York City, hoping to find her first cousin Bobby. Once when they were children and she had become lost on a fox hunting trip, Bobby found her and said, “Even if you were a thousand miles away, I would be close to you and know what you’re thinking. No matter what happens, when we grow up, I’ll always be there right by you. All you ever have to do is think about me and I’ll be close.” The descriptions of Marianne’s courtship and marriage, her talkative mother-in-law, the New Orleans scenes are all wonderful. But problems mount, even for a sympathic reader, when Marianne, in New York, learns that Bobby has switched from selling stocks to directing a play off-Broadway. A producer’s lunch at Sardi’s is preposterous, and Bobby and his much discussed charisma become unbelievable. Nothing that he does makes him appear to the reader as magnetic as he seems to everyone in the book. Then, thanks to Bobby, Marianne gets into show business and becomes a successful agent. She also bumps into him in Mexico and learns his secret. What she finds out about his past isn’t all that surprising—a good therapist ought to be able to straighten him out in a couple of weeks. Norris, who has had several short stories published, is skillful at creating eccentric, oversized characters, but they are a lot more fun in the Deep South than when she wedges them into the tritely portrayed showbiz worlds of New York or Hollywood. (Knopf, $15.95)

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