Age Range: 11 - 13
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The family conflicts of LaFaye’s turbulent debut, Year of the Sawdust Man (1998), head toward resolution in this bustling, lightweight, far-fetched sequel. In the two years since her mother, Heirah Rae took off to find something better than her claustrophobic small-town life, Nissa has neither forgiven her, nor warmed to her father’s new wife, Lara. Then Heirah Rae resurfaces, with an invitation to join her in Chicago. After an internal struggle and with her father’s very reluctant consent, Nissa goes. LaFaye fills the Depression-era story with events—parties, pregnancies, puberty (along with a standard-issue onset-of-menses scene, with all its attending panic), Nissa’s first taste of city life and her first exposure to live theater, heart-to-heart conversations, tense confrontations, and fence- mending; all of the characters, from a coterie of vicious gossips to Nissa’s idealized parents—one wise, earthy, and quiet, the other flamboyant, outrageous, and artistically gifted—larger than life. For such lean times, money for food and travel flows smoothly, while people talk about pregnancy in chatty, modern, informal terms. The patchy ending is more of a collapsed epilogue, or a separately written short story, in which Nissa returns to Louisiana to organize a public library and, finding her town’s racial divide too deep to span, ends up building two. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-689-82610-9
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999