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    THE FIRST TIME by Joy Fielding

    Pocket Books, 2000

    The First Time coverMattie and Jake Hart have the same problems millions of couples have. Forced into marriage years ago by an unplanned pregnancy, they've never really been in love, and they've grown more distant over the years. Jake has fallen in love with someone else, Mattie has figured it out, and they're on the brink of marital disaster. But when Mattie discovers she has a terrible disease, Jake feels honor-bound to stay by her side through the ordeal and at least pretend to love her. Ironically, Mattie's illness allows them to fall in love, and also helps them to heal the rift with their rebellious teenage daughter.

    I finished Ms. Fielding's latest effort with mixed emotions--crying copiously because the book is a blatant tear-jerker. Awed, because Ms. Fielding could, if she wanted, write about grass growing for 400 pages and make it compelling. She has an uncanny ability to climb into fictional people's heads and make them sound so real you expect them to walk through the door, and make their problems your problems. And angry, because this was not a story I enjoyed. The melodrama of depressing, dysfunctional families and fatal diseases are not what I normally would choose to fill my leisure time reading about. I so much prefer Ms. Fielding's suspense books--See Jane Run and Kiss Mommy Goodbye are two of my all-time favorites.

    Still, I have to recommend the book because it is so masterfully written, and unlike me, many people love the catharsis this type of intensely emotional book can bring them. Set aside a few hours and stock up on the Kleenex.

    Three Stars

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