Martha Southgate
April 09, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Kathryn Harrison’s first novel, Thicker Than Water — a harrowing story of incest and redemption — marked her as a writer to watch. Exposure confirms that promise.

Ann Rogers is pretty, she has a good job as a wedding videographer, and she has a kind and loving husband — but she’s falling apart. She’s a careless diabetic, a compulsive thief, and a crystal-meth addict. Her self-destructive ways have accelerated in anticipation of a retrospective of her late father’s photographs of her — nude, sexually suggestive works that pry into the darkest corners of her childhood.

The recent controversy surrounding photographer Sally Mann’s intimate portraits of her children comes to mind. But Harrison transcends the topical. Ann’s father, Edgar, is abusive and finally insane, but he is also a fully developed character. And while the novel itself has the momentum of a mystery, it also asks larger questions about the nature of celebrity and the bounds of privacy. A-

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