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Parting is All We Know of Heaven

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Cordelia is a 29-year-old aspiring actress whose elder sister, an aspiring saint, is murdered. The event turns Cordelia's life into a battleground where guilt and grief vie for control.
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Moynahan marks her novelistic debut with a competently crafted ``woman's novel'' of an undemanding if lurid and fairly muddled sort. Beautiful 29-year-old aspiring actress Cordelia Cavanagh works in a health club and lives on New York's West Side. The brutal murder by stabbing of her much-idealized older sister Cynthia, who acted as a surrogate mother during their parents' divorce, drives Cordelia to flamboyantly narcissistic despair. The heroine's prolonged and extreme sufferings--they include self-isolation, anorexia, attempted suicide, cocaine and dangerously rough sex with a sadistic, sinisterly rich older man--lack sufficient motivation to be entirely credible, but Moynahan otherwise draws a convincing portrait of the Cavanagh family's dynamics and an assortment of minor characters. Ultimately, though, despite some promising strengths, the novel fails to rise above the juvenile self-absorption of its heroine. (Jan.)

Cordelia Cavanagh works as a receptionist at a New York City squash club but aspires to an acting career. After her sister is brutally murdered, she indulges in survivor guilt in the worst way and spends the rest of the novel trying to make sense out of her muddled feelings about her dead sister, her psychologist mother, and her frustrated actor father. Cordelia unwisely hooks up with Philip, a true lowlife, with whom she has fairly graphic but unexciting S & M sex. She also tries anorexia and drugs, to no avail. She finally comes to her senses and seems to resolve her conflict somewhat, but her relationships with various family members and friends remain tenuous. Not an essential purchase (but a nice title).-- Mary K. Prokop, CEL Regional Lib., Savannah, Ga.

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