WEAK HEARTS

ANGEL ANGEL IS A TOUCHING PORTRAYAL OF A FAMILY'S INERTIA

It is early summer in a nameless Connecticut hamlet, and the Irises are wilting. Like the members of so many families who inhabit the world of contemporary fiction, those in the Iris clan are profoundly disconnected from one another. When we meet them in Angel Angel (Viking; 211 pages; $19.95), April Stevens' intelligent and moving first novel, they seem withered by their inability to achieve the closeness they yearn for.

The story begins as Augusta Iris decides to take to her bed indefinitely. Her husband has left her for another woman, and she is exhausted not only from the pain of...

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