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IN BRIEF

Fiction

June 04, 1995|ERIKA TAYLOR

FIVE MINUTES IN HEAVEN by Lisa Alther (Dutton: $22.95; 372 pp.) Author of "Kinflicks" and other bestsellers, Lisa Alther, in her fifth novel, chronicles the life of a woman named Jude as she tries to free herself from terrible losses in her past. "Five Minutes In Heaven" is broken into four sections, each representing a person who forever changes Jude. First there's Molly, the childhood friend Jude falls hopelessly in love with, but can't have. Alther's writing in this section is somewhat cloying (" 'But why can't Noreen just leave us alone?' demanded Jude, letting her adorable hand collapse in her lap."). However, this quality disappears as Jude becomes older. Next there is Sandy, a gay man, and finally Anna, a married woman who begins a clandestine affair with Jude. Although the writing here is better, it is difficult to understand the depth of Jude's obsession with Anna, since she is insufferably indulgent, self-absorbed and clearly not to be trusted. Eventually, Jude goes to Paris, where she begins the slow process of coming to terms with her own debilitating emotional pain. This is by far the strongest section of the book. As a character, Jude is much more compelling when not surrounded by high drama.

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