By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated April 25, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

Purple America by Rick Moody is a book about love — love in as many permutations as can be encompassed in one day in the life of one family. That family is the Raitliffes: mother Billie, in the last throes of a motor-neuron disease; her second husband, Lou; the spectre of Billie’s first husband, Allen, long deceased; and their son, Dexter, a fortysomething stuttering alcoholic with a fixation on a high school sweetheart and inability to take responsibility for his life. When Lou decides to leave Billie, she summons Dexter to her bedside and asks him to end her suffering; from there the carefully constructed facades of their lives begin to crumble. What holds this novel together and combats its claustrophobia, sometimes-monstrous characters, and countless, paragraph-long sentences is the palpable affection evident in these pages. It’s hard not to be seduced. A-

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