December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

by Cathleen Schine

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A smart and witty novel of relationships unfolding, full-blown and faded, She Is Me shines with lyric sensuality and insight. The story, a modern meditation on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, pivots on the midlife transformations of Greta Bernard, a Santa Monica garden designer and a young grandmother. Greta’s is a family of earthy intellectuals with an easy bond. They can talk about anything among themselves, but their intimacy is challenged by a succession of crises.

Her mother, Lotte—still glamorous, still vain, still a self-described “pistol”—is fighting an aggressive skin cancer. Greta’s daughter Elizabeth has just moved to Los Angeles with her partner Brett and their son Harry, abandoning her academic career to write a modern screen adaptation of Madame Bovary.

Greta is herself battling colon cancer, which she must hide from the fragile Lotte. She also realizes she might be gay as she falls in love with Daisy, the director of Elizabeth’s film, but this is a fact she feels she must hide from everyone. Balancing the points of view of the three women with humor and warmth, Schine meticulously scrutinizes the many ramifications of marriage and adultery, parenthood and childhood.

THRILLER

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