By CLEA SIMON  |  January 22, 2008

At bottom, this is a conventional novel, a story of one character’s journey masquerading as a novel of ideas about trauma and growth. Conventional novels can be wonderful. If this one isn’t, that’s not because of the common nature of the character’s passage but because Gilligan’s precise, overwritten style is somewhat dull, particularly in the first half. And the slight digressions in the final section — notably the changes of voice, as Greta and Andreas take turns narrating — are awkward and add little. The author, with her eye for detail, makes it easy to imagine her characters hovering over menus at the Harvest or bustling down Brattle Street in their black wool coats. But she lacks the experienced novelist’s ability to step back, to avoid overexplaining, and to let life happen. Greta wouldn’t have made that mistake.

CAROL GILLIGAN | Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge | January 30 at 7 pm | 617.661.1515.

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