By Leah Greenblatt
Updated October 02, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

In A Change in Latitude, Anita Shreve abandons her familiar New England settings for the arid plains and lush expat gardens of 1970s Kenya — though she imports the sudden tragedies that habitually center her fiction. Freshly minted doctor Patrick and photojournalist Margaret are newlyweds just finding their footing in Nairobi — and in their marriage — when a mountain-climbing accident spins their world off its axis. Shreve, who spent three years in Africa as a young woman, brings the continent vividly to life, but never quite injects her characters with the same immediacy. Margaret remains a cipher, and not a particularly likable one at that; it’s as if she exists behind a hazy scrim of mosquito netting — of the story, but never truly in it. B?

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