THE INJURED PARTY by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer (St. Martin's: $16.95; 309 pp.). At first, I didn't like Iris, but I learned to respect her. She's a novelist with a peculiar but devotion-producing personality. And she's ill. At first, I didn't admire Mike, but I learned to love him. Every woman should have a husband like Mike. He understands Iris and is almost imperturbable considering what's going on. At first, I didn't like John, but I learned to understand his need to be with Iris.
At first, I didn't comprehend what this book is all about. I'm still not sure. But its theme, I think, is love and responsibility quite inconspicuously invoked under uncommon circumstances in an uncommon setting with an uncommon family: a long-married husband and wife, two intelligent teen-age children and the wife's ex-lover, who arrives at the family's doorstep one day--after a 20-year absence--to announce that he wants to stay because he's dying. (There's also a day maid named Etheline, who has some of the wisest and funniest lines in the novel.) Susan Fromberg Schaeffer is a mistress of metaphor. Her prose is soft, like velvet, and so seamless is her complicated narrative that its journey into fearful places is secure. And reassuring.