The premise of Sharon Solwitz’s first novel, Bloody Mary (after the children’s game), is familiar: a middle-aged wife and mother wonders if this is all there is while her pubescent daughter confronts issues of self-identity. It would be a disservice to dismiss this effort as chick lit or mommy lit–it’s a little less blithe and a little more tragic than most contenders in those categories. But I didn’t feel much sympathy for the characters most of the time. This well-to-do Lakeview family is just too wonderful. Claire, a former dancer and now a cancer-ward nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital, takes tennis lessons and classes at the School of the Art Institute in her spare time. Her loving, attentive husband is a successful eye surgeon. Thirteen-year-old Hadley is tall, pretty, and popular; her older sister, Nora, runs track, plays violin, speaks French, and goes to jazz shows with her equally talented friends. So what brings trouble to paradise? Well, Claire has the occasional inconvenient seizure, which she’s somehow managed to keep secret from her family. She discovers that the newly rebellious Hadley has lied to her (only about what she had for breakfast, but turns out it’s a gateway lie). And then there’s Claire’s own lie, only the second one in her adult life but certainly a doozy–she’s having an affair with an overweight but free-spirited SAIC instructor. Solwitz deftly shifts between Claire’s point of view and Hadley’s, but what saves the story is that she doesn’t inflate their trials into melodrama. There are some hiccups in the generally low-key narrative, however: Claire and her lover read a Stoppard play together in the nude, and for some reason Solwitz has the normally hip Claire throw on a silly royal blue track suit to hunt for runaway Hadley near Clark and Belmont. Bloody Mary succeeds in letting us in on what and how its main characters think; perhaps it’s easier to be affected by them if you’re more like them. Solwitz will read from and sign Bloody Mary at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, August 13, at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299.