Books: Lives in the Flow

MACHINE DREAMS

by Jayne Anne Phillips Dutton; 331 pages; $16.95

A novelist can describe time's flow past a few more bends in the river, nothing more. And nothing less: seen well, the currents and eddies that quicken, disappear and roil to the surface again during two generations of an ordinary family's journey are astonishing and mysterious. Fat-legged baby becomes child, becomes maiden, becomes mother, becomes crone. Which is real? Blink twice; the young hell raiser reappears as the sour pensioner. Which is illusion, hot sexuality or bitter recollection?

Jayne Anne Phillips' wondering, musing first novel raises such...

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