The Lazarus Child Author:Robert Mawson From Publishers Weekly — A real Sleeping Beauty comes haltingly to life in this slick but topical New Age thriller, the second novel (but the first to be published here) by British writer Mawson. When Alison Heywood evicts her husband, Jack, from their Cambridge, England, home for sleeping with his secretary, 12-year-old Ben has to take over the ... more »chore of walking his seven-year-old sister, Frankie, to school. After ducking into a store, he emerges to see her and her playmate Isabelle struck by a van; the accident kills Isabelle and leaves Frankie in a coma. The Heywoods decide to send her to the Perlman Institute in Virginia, run by charismatic Dr. Lizzie Chase, who occasionally has success reviving comatose patients with such controversial methods as sexual stimulation, recreational drugs and heavy metal music. The metaphor of indulging kids rather than censoring them is laid on thick in this emotionally manipulative narrative. So are the digs at the self-righteous types (led by a senator whose son died at Perlman) who try to close down the Institute. Meanwhile, Frankie's family and Lizzie's clique of friends are exceptionally clever and compassionate in their fight to keep the Institute operating. Mawson hits all the bases by weaving in whatever hot issues come to hand: alternative medicine, the "right to die" and the problems of medical bureaucracy. Yet he dilutes the climax by setting it in a dim dreamscape where hypnotized Ben fights to return Frankie from "the other side." The contemporaneous, real-world abduction of Frankie and Ben from the authorities who have occupied the Institute provides a showcase for Mawson's considerable strengths: witty dialogue, savvy characters, surprise developments and rapid pacing. Naturally, by the time the little girl comes back to life, her mum and dad have patched things up, and this three-hanky resolution may well justify the novel's pre-publication interest. Agent, Christopher Little; editor, Francesca Liversidge; Literary Guild main selection. (Aug.) FYI: Bantam bought The Lazarus Child in a preemptive, "seven-figure" bid.