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[whitespace] All reviews by Christine Brenneman (CB) and Michael Stabile (MS)

book cover Amy and Isabelle
By Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 304 pages, $22.95

Elizabeth Strout--who often writes for The New Yorker's fiction section--expertly fashions her debut novel, Amy and Isabelle, into a painful yet triumphant tale of a mother and daughter bound together by their shared secrets. Unfolding in the depressing New England village of Shirley Falls, Amy and Isabelle sucks the reader into its small-town world, a place where the contaminated river reeks in the summer heat and nearly everyone in town works at the mill. It is in this stifling environment that we learn of the missteps and tragedies that color the lives of uptight Isabelle and her shy daughter. (CB)

book cover House of Sand and Fog
By Andre Dubus III
Norton, 365 pages, $24.95

House of Sand and Fog is a study in how a few unlucky occurrences can change the course of a life forever. The two main characters--Massoud Amir Behrani, an Iranian immigrant, and Kathy Lazaro, a recovering coke addict--have little in common besides the desperate nature of their lives and the feeling that the American dream has failed them utterly. The convincing portraits of the main characters balance out the overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Unfortunately, some of Dubus' San Francisco descriptions are a bit off the mark, especially when he tells of a summer day so hot that it was nearly unbearable to work outside. (CB)

book cover Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis
By John Hannigan
Routledge, 200 pages, $22.99

Hannigan's highly readable tracing of the "entertainment value" of modern city life is as enjoyable as it is exhaustive. Starting with turn-of-the-century nickelodeons and following the decline of the "constructed" city as a place of danger, Hannigan arrives at his most prescient observations about the current state of American cities. The Disney-fication of Times Square in New York is one example of what Hannigan claims is a re-creation of "city" life geared to suburban tourists who come for adventure but are afraid of real problems like homelessness and class inequality. (MS)

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From the March 1, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc.