by Joyce Maynard
It’s no accident that the heroine of Joyce (To Die For) Maynard’s new novel is known throughout simply as Claire. Lacking a surname, this al-most-40, divorced New England working mother is a kind of Everywoman of the ’90s, someone with whom many readers can identify. Smart, funny and hip in a college-educated, real way, she is the personification of a baby boomer who discovers in midlife that relationships—with lovers, with other women, with coworkers and with children—are more complicated than she’d expected.
While still necessarily connected to her ex-husband, Claire is looking for love and finds that it is hard to come by. Her one big affair since her divorce, with a baseball fanatic named Mickey, has now become a best-friends-by-telephone relationship since Mickey doesn’t want a girlfriend with kids. But when Claire meets Tim, a divorced father, things start looking up: He’s a caring man who adores Claire and would like nothing better than to blend their families.
Given that this is an endlessly self-analytical group of folks, however, the path of could-be true love will not be smooth. Tim, in a way, is too good to be true; at least, he’s not the kind of edgy neurotic Claire tends to favor. Factor in that her kids hate him and his daughter and you’ve got the makings of a dysfunctional Yours, Mine, and Ours.
Maynard is a fluid writer, and there are many scenes of domestic confusion and emotional longing that ring true. But there’s also something annoying about this book: Instead of simply telling us Claire’s story, Maynard uses her as a symbol, a means to address issues about women of her generation. As she did in her famous debut memoir, Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties (1973), she turns herself and her peers into predictable, tiresome bores. (Crown, $23)