Books: Lost Generation

BEFORE MY TIME

by MAUREEN HOWARD 241 pages. Little, Brown. $6.95.

Traditional novelists toss pebbles into domestic pools and then take notes. The postwar fashion has been to track these projectiles directly into the muck below, but there is another, older way. As masters like Henry James and Virginia Woolf knew, the ripples on the surface can bedevil the eye and engage the mind. Before My Time brushes up this earlier technique. It transforms a brief disturbance of hearth and home into an age of anxiety.

Laura Quinn, fortyish, opens her suburban Boston home to Jim Cogan, 17, the son of Bronx relatives. He...

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