A horrific if dizzyingly paced second novel from the author of Goodbye, Saigon (1994), this about a young woman's struggle to deal with the rage and sexual abuse that destroyed her family and indelibly scarred her. When underage Jolene elopes, she takes her sister, nine-year- old Lela, along as well—simply because she wants to save Lela from what Daddy did to her. Daddy is a tyrannical, Scripture-quoting control freak who's been sexually molesting Jolene for years; meanwhile, the girls' mother, Marilee, is a sweet, ineffectual soul who finds refuge in music and religion. When the newly married young couple, with Lela in tow, come back to town, Daddy goes berserk and rams their car as they try to escape. As a result, Lela is badly injured, and social workers, already suspicious of the family, send her to a foster home, a sort of contemporary Dotheboys Hall. But Lela, a sweet child, manages to tell a visiting TV crew the truth about what happened and is taken back home—only to see Daddy himself arrive with a gun and kill the crew and his wife. Escaping with Lela, he heads for a mountain cabin, but the two are spotted at a nearby store by the vacationing Bingham family. Lela is raped by Daddy and nearly dies in the cold as she flees, but the kind and wealthy Binghams find her and adopt her, though sister Jolene also wants custody. Years later, Lela is a successful artist, and life seems good—until a stranger and lover-to-be named Brad hitches up with now drug-addicted Jolene's neglected daughter, Sandy, and reminds Lela of her unresolved past. Heeding conventional wisdom, Lela must deal with that past before she can ride off happily into the sunset. More action than insight as characters reinforce stale clichÇs in a women's genre that is in itself fast becoming a clichÇ. Still, Lela is a strong woman more appealing than most.
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