The Ragged Way People Fall Out of Love (North Point 1991)

In Stringer's Ridge, N.C., the marriage of William Hanner, architect, and artist Molly is dissolving. Although William precipitates the break and Molly acquiesces passively, both are distressed: ``They didn't yet realize the ragged way people fall out of love and how it is never completely done.'' In her second novel, Cox (Familiar Ground) tells us how Molly, in her daily life as mother--of 16-year-old Joe, Franci, who's 12, and Lucas, age 7--both relinquishes love and claims it. With her recently widowed father, Molly looks back at childhood experiences of loving; with her astronomy teacher, she considers loving anew; with her children, and with the sympathetic figure of a local misfit, she is reminded of the vulnerability inherent in attachment. Cox's simple, meticulous prose infuses this domestic tale with a subtle force, but the full effect of her insight is constrained by an flatness in tone and an excess of metaphoric material--Molly's art, lunar eclipse, the disappearance of her son, a fatal fire--that ultimately create distance rather than intimacy. Cox's clear-eyed vision, especially keen when trained on family dramas, remains unique and promising.
-Publishers Weekly