December 02, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Shelter

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Jayne Anne Phillips
genre
Fiction
We gave it a B

Jayne Anne Phillips writes rangy, image-packed sentences that gather meaning as they lope along, quietly climaxing in thrilling scenes of understated drama. So what makes her new novel feel so forced? The story of two sisters at a summer camp in West Virginia and their unlikely relationship with a poor local boy, Shelter unpacks each character’s sentimental history, then herds the trio into a grown-up crisis in which they prove their heroism and vulnerability. They’re strong, likable people, but they remain barely grounded in Phillips’ sea of description. Strained metaphors — such as ”the cots are precisely mute” and ”the dream smelled of water” — don’t help. This is an ambitious, often beautiful book that might have been deeply affecting had Phillips not been so bent on making it so. B

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