Megan Harlan
August 16, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Crows Over a Wheatfield

Current Status
In Season
Paula Sharp

We gave it an A

You might not expect a riveting novel about domestic violence and family-court law to be so inclusive, beautifully written — and often straight-out funny. But in tracing the lives of two baby-boomer women — narrator Melanie Ratleer, daughter of an abusive defense attorney, who eventually becomes a judge herself, and her friend, the good-naturedly subversive Mildred Steck — Paula Sharp impressively flexes both her knowledge of the law (she’s a Manhattan criminal lawyer) and her talent for rich characterization. Sharp’s artistry makes Crows Over a Wheatfield as lush in detail (the frigid small-town Wisconsin setting bursts with all shades of Midwestern eccentricity) as it is grand in scale, with meditations on insanity and plain old evil swirled into the mix. And how the women use the law — and other means — to protect themselves and their families makes for an elementally powerful read. A

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