Suzanne Ruta
May 10, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sweet Remedy

Current Status
In Season
Linda Phillips Ashour

We gave it a B

In Sweet Remedy, Polly Harrison followed her bliss from Granite, Okla., to the West Coast, but 20 years later, her life is falling apart: Her unfaithful husband has moved out; her Okie grandmother, a former rodeo star, has moved in; and her children run wild. Polly finds solace in writing the graceful lyrics to country ballads that turn up throughout the book, but her agent discourages her. Why write about family, he asks, ”in a time when family doesn’t exist?” In a series of fast-paced, gently comic episodes, Polly proves him wrong. With its quick turnarounds and snappy comebacks (”How did the two of you get back together? Reconciliation is so nineties!”), Linda Phillips Ashour’s unfazed excursion into the new middle-class populism — temp jobs and low-budget public schools — gives the California novel a brisk update: an almost credible happy ending. B

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