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Escaping to `Tuxedo Park'

Tuxedo Park, by Laura Furman. New York: Summit Books. 352 pp. $17.95. ``Ask yourself, Sadie, with each decision you make, For whom shall I live my life?''

Early on in ``Tuxedo Park,'' Reuben Ash presses this advice on his younger sister, Sadie. And throughout the rest of the novel, his question hangs in the background, a haunting demand that could be asked of virtually every character who springs to life in this deftly told story of blinded and blinding love.

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At 19, Sadie Ash discovers her Prince Charming -- suave, sophisticated, and wealthy Willard Weaver. She convinces herself that Willard offers an open door to a world of wonder that she has never known as an orphaned middle-class Jew living with her older brother on New York's West Side. Sadie makes her escape, into marriage and family with Willard.

But she is blinded by a love that is so consuming, so selfish, that she doesn't realize Willard is seeking an escape, too.

When Willard walks out on her and their two daughters, Sadie retreats to Tuxedo Park, an elite WASP-ish community near Manhattan where the Weavers have long had a family estate. Sadie cocoons herself and her children in the Park's ambience of suspended animation. She is determined to wait it out for Willard's return, all the while oblivious to the toll she is exacting on herself and her family.

Laura Furman, whose short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, has a keen eye for mannerisms and detail. That talent serves her well in crafting this very human tale which underscores the dangers of living in the past or the future at the expense of commitment to the present -- and to those who live in the present.

It takes a near tragedy for Sadie to wake up, to end her escape from the present. Her lesson is one worth considering, a message with import for anyone who believes that life will be worth living sometime soon -- but not just now.

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