BOOKS: FAMILY MATTER

A STRONG WOMAN COPES WITH BAD PARENTS IN SALT DANCERS

An odd effect of double image, of not quite being in focus, mars Ursula Hegi's Salt Dancers (Simon & Schuster; 235 pages; $22), a forcefully written novel of child abuse and parental desertion. The author's strength is her unfailing immediacy of language, which illuminated her fine previous novel Stones from the River. Her scenes, as character grates on troubled character, are real and vivid; they command attention. But the book's structure might have been designed by a committee to illustrate how bitter, unresolved childhood memories can be coped with. (Hegi's dedication is "For my women's group"; is there a clue here?)

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