Amazon AdventuresnPaule Marshall: Praisesongfor thenWidow; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; NewnYork.nSusan Monsky: Midnight Suppers;nHoughton Mifflin; Boston.nRebecca Hill: Blue Rise; WilliamnMorrow; New York.nby Diane Long Hoevelern1 hese three novels reveal both hownfar the “woman’s novel” has come, andnyet how &r it has to go before it speaksnto readers about universal concerns.nEach of these novels is primarily concernednwith exploring the ambiguitiesnimplicit in being daughter, wife, ornmother to male figures who are at bestnmisguided, at worst oppressive. Andneach of the heroines supposedly triumphsnat the conclusion, earns her victorynby rejecting either the patriarchalnvalues of society or the more subtlentyranny of the family structure. The implicationnis that there can be no easy relationshipsnfor the woman who realizesnherself as an individual. Freedom fornthese authors consists in liberating oneselfnfi-om the constricting definitionsnand roles that society, religion, and femilynimpose on women.nDespite the individual artistic merit ofneach novel, one cannot help but notice ancertain myopia in the authors’ viewpoints.nPaule Marshall’s heroine AveynJohnson (her real name being Avatara,nsymbolic of her identity as the blacknfemale bourgeoisie) undergoes a spiritualnquest that includes a mystical call tonreject the white values she and her husbandnso fiercely embraced in order tonescape the poverty of the black ghetto.nAfter deserting a Caribbean cruise (archetypalnsymbol of the white corruptionnand usurpation of Afro-Caribbean life),nMs. Hoeveler teaches ataprep school innMilwaukee.nSS^^^^^^HnChronicles of Culturenshe finds herself descending into an underworldnof black native culture of thenCaribbean. Her spiritual guide is a blacknnative who has stayed in touch with hisnAfirican heritage; he attempts to recovernAvey’s black identity by taking her to then”Big Drum,” a series of native dancesndone in honor and memory of the “OldnParents,” the “Long-time People.” After anpurgation and reliving of her past lifenthrough dreams and memories, Avey isnready to reclaim her African past andnjoin in the circular dance that comes tonher effortlessly, instinctively. Her salvation,nafter she returns to white society,nwill continue as she operates a camp andnsanctuary for her own grandchildren andnother black children who will be taughtnabout their ancestors and their Pan-Africannheritage.nThe heroines oiMidnight Suppers, anJewish mother and daughter in thenSouth, find their identities both oppressivenand liberating. Because they are thenperiphery of a periphery, they have thenfreedom to break and make laws as theynsee fit. And so the mother has a long-ndied at birth. All the characters’ biblicalnnames—^Esther, Abraham, Isaac, Rebeccan—serve as reminders that the Jevvishnheritage is a vital and strong presencenthat speaks of suffering and isolation,npromises kept and promises broken. AnJew in the South, in Monsky’s perception,nis as much an outsider as PaulenMarshall’s blacks are throughout thencountry. What neither author conveys isnthat alienation and the perception of isolationnis a human experience, certainlynnot limited to a particular religious ornethnic group.nRebecca Hill presents her novel aboutna woman’s decision to get a divorcenagainst the backdrop of rural Mississippi.nA woman who has forsaken her SouthemnBaptist upbringing in favor of marriagenand a life in Des Moines comesnhome to seek her widowed mother’snapproval for the divorce she desiresnfrom a man her mother can see only as angood man, a good provider. In a series ofnvignettes that explore the options availablento Southern women, Ms. Hill presentsnall women as victimized by theirn”Monsky . . . has succeeded in writing a novel about her subject, instead of annexemplary case history.”n—Village Voicenstanding affair with her husband’s businessnpartner, which causes her husbandnand daughter more than a little anguish.nTriangular relationships mark every encounternin this book; even the dead firstnwife and son of the husband figurenprominentiy in a novel that suggests thatnevery human arrangement requiresnmultiple others as buffers against thenpain of encounter. The daughter, unsurenof her paternity, distances herself fromnall three parent figures, capturing andnfreezing them in the photographs she isnexhibiting of her life in the South. Butncoming to terms with her heritage alsonmeans accepting the pain of loss and thenreality of death, so she names her firstnson for her dead fether and his son whonnnovwn dependence on men who are conditionednto deceive and abuse them. Butnit is the mother-daughter relationshipnthat is the focal point of this study of familialndesperation. In trying to understandnher mother’s devotion to a husbandnwho beat his children, the daughterntries to justify her own decisions andnfailures. Since she married a man as unlikenher father as possible, she realizesnthat she still has not taken responsibilitynfor her own Itfe. She says at the end ofnthe novel: “I am finished believing thatnthere is salvation by relationship.” Butnthe opposite, she must admit, might alsonbe valid. As an adult, she can no longerncontinue to blame her unhappiness andnfailures on her relationships with others.n