MEAnne RoipheLittle, Brown! 212 pages...

IF YOU KNEW

August 22, 1993|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK THE ANGEL MAKER Ridley Pearson Delacorte Press ! 341 pages. $21.95 | J. WYNN ROUSUCK THE ANGEL MAKER Ridley Pearson Delacorte Press ! 341 pages. $21.95,LOS ANGELES TIMES

IF YOU KNEW ME

Anne Roiphe

Little, Brown

! 212 pages. $19.95

Ollie Marcus teaches his high school English students "to honor their own stories." And in her latest novel, "If You Knew Me," Anne Roiphe tells a story worthy of honor. Leah Rose, a middle-aged New York scientist, is on sabbatical in an East Coast ocean resort town when she meets Marcus, a year-round resident who lives with his mentally deficient sister.

Ms. Roiphe relates the details of Leah and Ollie's reluctant romance in such lyrical, almost poetic, prose that the bulk of the novel reads like a mood piece. Then in the last 40 pages a tightly knit plot emerges, artfully woven from the poetic strands that preceded it. Almost every detail takes on resonance in the end -- the rescue from the chill ocean waters that begins the book, the references to whales and "Moby-Dick" that repeat like leitmotifs. Although at times the writing seems too self-conscious, the satisfaction derived from the conclusion more than compensates.

Leah, Ms. Roiphe writes, "had ambitions to repair the irreparable." Somewhat to her surprise, Leah accomplishes that, and so, in a small way, does this book.

@ For Daphne Matthews, shelter volunteer and police psychologist, it started as a nightmare . . . and quickly got worse: Someone was kidnapping runaways, surgically stealing a kidney from them, erasing via electroshock all memory of the event, and turning them back out on the streets. Some of them even lived; it was just such a survivor that originally drew Daphne into the case.

But now, suddenly, solving the case has become personal: Daphne's friend, Sharon, is missing, and Daphne knows if she's to have any luck in saving her, she must persuade former cop and ex-lover, Lou Boldt, to give up the much-cherished safety of his new family life and join her on the case.

While certain scenes in Ridley Pearson's seventh novel, "The Angel Maker" -- specifically those focusing on Sharon and her tormentor -- are guaranteed to produce goosebumps galore, they are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. Overall, this effort is a rather tedious one, complete with uninteresting characters and dialogue that, more often than not, simply doesn't ring true. All in all, this is a true disappointment from this much-acclaimed author.

GREGORY N. KROLCZYK

SCHOOL SAVVY

Diane Harrington

and Laurette Young

The Noonday Press

* 209 pages. $10 (paperback)

Diane Harrington is the director of communications for the National Center on School Restructuring at Columbia University's Teachers College, and Laurette Young runs the White Plains, N.Y., public schools' Parent Information Center. They have written a primer about how to help your child navigate the increasingly choppy waters of public education.

In these days of budget-chopping, some of their advice is sadly comic -- they want to know the condition of the piano used for music class, when too many schools have lost music and art in the last round of belt-tightening. Essentially, they believe in what is known as "booster groups" -- parent committees that can replace some of the energy and funds that the state has taken away -- which means that their solution works only for people with extra time and money to spend, and does not solve problems for disadvantaged families in the schools that probably need help the most.

They also recommend a level of politeness in dealing with difficult teachers that seems beyond human ability or propriety. This is a decent basic text to help families play the paltry hand they've been dealt; now we need a blueprint for fixing the schools.

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