The innocent accused: See Bette Midler in the role

July 04, 1993|By Helene Lorber | Helene Lorber,Knight-Ridder News Service

AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Susan Isaacs

HarperCollins

343 pages. $23 Susan Isaacs' characters in "After All These Years" are back where and when they belong -- present-day Long Island. No more nasty Nazis, as in "Shining Through"; our villains are social climbers and corporate raiders.

The eternal Isaacs heroine is firmly in place. This time she's an up-from-Brooklyn English teacher whose math-teacher husband has climbed to the top of the business world as founder of a high-tech research company. Rosie and Richie Meyers move to a Gatsby-esque enclave where she feels out of place, and he feels he's only begun.

Richie's dreams of social status and villas in Tuscany fit his bankbook, but they don't fit Rosie. After their silver anniversary party, he tells her he's leaving her for the shiksa of his dreams: a young, thin, gorgeous, blond MBA.

The divorce is in the final stages when Richie turns up, extremely dead, in the kitchen. All the meager evidence points to Rosie as the culprit, and she's likely to be arrested right after the funeral. With Rosie in custody, the police have no reason to look for the real killer, so she hotfoots it into Manhattan to reconstruct Richie's secret life and find his murderer.

"After All These Years" has a rocky start. Rosie persists in quipping right and left, through all manner of betrayal and accusation: "I'll be out of the jug in time for the Miss Osteoporosis Pageant in 2025." But febrile optimism, however unseemly in a jilted wife or grieving widow, is just the thing for a spunky seeker of truth and justice.

In other words, once Rosie goes undercover, things really begin to cook. I'm not accusing Ms. Isaacs of writing half-a-book, half-a-screenplay, but this is the most cinematic novel I've read in a long time.

It's one thing to picture characters as you read; it's another to cast them. But indulge me, please.

No. 1: No more Jewish heroine roles for Melanie Griffith! I see Bette Midler as the 47-year-old Rosie. She's a credible 47, and sexy enough to have enjoyed Richie (Joe Mantegna), for whom making money was but one talent. Christian Slater is the accommodating friend of her son's who hides Rosie when she's on the lam. Martha Stewart (in her screen debut) plays the Martha Stewart character, a brioche-baking, pine cone-gilding neighbor who may be more than she seems. Alec Baldwin (playing older) is Tom Driscoll, Rosie's never-forgotten first love. As for Miss MBA, well, maybe Melanie Griffith, but only if she takes speech lessons.

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