The Basics: For a manuscript that chilled in a refrigerator for 30 years as the author fumed at the publishing world, this posthumous novel is no cold dish. Author Maritta Wolff, who died in 2002, became a star with her first book, Whistle Stop, in 1941 when she was just 22. It turned into a hit movie with Ava Gardner. Six books later, she had a fight with her publisher and never wrote again. So for the five couples caught in Sudden Rain, life is suspended in the Los Angeles of the 1970s, with its ostentatious interior design, cultural obsessions over traffic and shopping, and constant sexual revolutions.
The Catch: If that sounds almost like today, it's because Wolff's story is more timeless than it is specific, even though it is rooted in Updike-like descriptions of the houses, cars and divorce proceedings of the day. Even the language sounds retro-hip, with the housewives trying to talk like hippies and the younger generation attempting to sound as urbane as possible. The only thing out of date is how much of their time these people spend smoking cigarettes.
Why It's Good: The novel's characters are intertwined by their marital infidelities. Pete is getting divorced from Killian, who is the long-lost daughter of Mac, who has an affair with Cynny Holman, whose husband Jim is competing for an aerospace contract with Pete's father Tom, who is having an affair with Hallie. But men aren't the enemy in this enlightened observation. The women cheat as often as the men do, and with as much gusto. Wolff presents a spectrum of feminist attitude without resorting to any stereotypes, and comes up with the very human conclusion that women need to do whatever they need to do in order to be happy.
iVillage Mood Meter: Will make you feel like a hip chick
Author: Maritta Wolff