Attachments, Rossner’s fifth novel, succeeds Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1975), the work that brought her renown and financial stability. In all of her earlier novels, Rossner portrays women who seek order and meaning, but Nadine excels her predecessors in consciousness and complexity.

Nadine’s quest for structure and meaning involves a search for role models and for purpose. Intelligent and perceptive, yet lacking in physical beauty, she is incompatible with the environment of her glamorous but superficial parents. Her mother’s vapidity, self-centered melancholy, and inability to see anything beneath the surface eliminate her as a feasible role model for her daughter. Leaving Bard College after hearing of the illness of her mentor Dr. Story, Nadine says she “hit the road for California, where my natural mother clung to life by a thread of misery too straggly for cancer to bother eroding.”

Other potential roles are unattainable. Dianne’s mother, a brilliant psychologist, arouses Nadine’s admiration, but the subtle hostility between Dr. Shapiro and her daughter precludes the possibility of forming a mentor relationship. Dr. Story, who could teach Nadine the rules of life (the “not done’s”), leaves academe to battle death. Nadine’s attempts to share her anger and grief with Dr. Becker, her boyfriend’s dentist-mother, fall on uncommunicative ears. Thus, Nadine’s confusion, inner rage, and sense of isolation partly stem from her rootlessness and her ambiguity concerning her role in adulthood, since she has no older woman on whom to pattern her life.

Closely connected to Nadine’s search for a model is her quest for...

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