Every female friendship has a script of its own. The one playing out in this debut novel is a gripping hybrid—Beaches crossed with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Rebecca, the narrator, is a bookish teen when she meets rich, beautiful, flamboyant Alex: “It was as though life were a Christmas tree and I’d discovered the hidden switch, the whole thing lighting up in a blaze of color.” Alex is a would-be actress; Rebecca, dissecting a frog in biology class, discovers her desire to be a doctor. “I had that exquisite sense of focus that came from being lost in one of my books,” she says. “I unwrapped the wet skein of the intestines and pulled them taut against my palm . . .” But this is 1958, and the prefeminist culture clips these young women’s wings as efficiently as Rebecca sliced out her frog’s heart—though not nearly so delicately. Pressured into giving up their dreams, the two careen into marriage and motherhood, still friends but separated by a continent. When reunited, they are too thwarted and angry to band together; like George and Martha, each confronts the other with her failures, snipping away whatever illusions may remain. And yet their connection holds, providing, in the end, a moment of grace. -Judith Coyne
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