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IN BRIEF

FICTION : ARE YOU MINE? by Abby Frucht (Grove Press: $19.95; 304 pp.)

April 11, 1993

This novel is like an artfully focused photograph. Sharp and clear in the center are a young Midwestern couple, Cara and Douglas, through whose viewpoints the story is told. A little less clear are their children, Georgie and Max, their dog, Kato, and certain relatives and friends. Everything in the background is a blur.

For this is a conventional, realistic novel only in appearance. At heart it's a comic fable, a "reproductive adventure" that takes the couple through a rather arbitrary course of love, childbirth, child-rearing, abortion, vasectomy and tubal ligation. It lifts a part of life--admittedly an important part--out of context for closer examination, and pretends that this part is the whole. We learn a lot about what it feels like to live inside a body, and about what happens to the body in medical institutions. Meanwhile, the only point of Cara's job as a career counselor is that she can question herself on aptitude forms; the only point of Douglas' job in radio is that a taped message left in his office can endanger their near-perfect marriage.

Fortunately, Abby Frucht ("Licorice") is a writer of considerable warmth and charm. Cara and Douglas exude a sexy yet responsible glow; they are smart, serious and funny and can carry the story on personality alone. The abortion section, in particular, shows genuine insight into the psychology of a woman facing this painful choice. It's refreshingly real and non-dogmatic, and one wishes extremists could be compelled to stop shouting (and killing) long enough to read it.

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