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February 23, 1992|Charles Solomon

THE RAGGED WAY PEOPLE FALL OUT OF LOVE by Elizabeth Cox (HarperPerennial: $10). The title aptly sums up this novel in which Cox describes the ragged, raw pain produced by a dull blade dragging over a woman's emotions. To the casual observer, Molly and William Hanner seem happy, but time and the mundane business of life have dimmed the passion they once shared. Cox strives to capture the often untidy reality of contemporary relationships, and she refuses to tie her characters' problems into neat packages--Molly is still struggling to reconcile her feelings when the story ends. But the improbable subplots involving the disappearance of the couple's eldest son and the suicide of an emotionally abused neighbor detract from the more substantially constructed main narrative.

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