THE YEAR OF THE SAWDUST MAN by A. LaFaye

THE YEAR OF THE SAWDUST MAN

Age Range: 11 - 15
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Her mother’s sudden, wordless departure drives Nissa, 11, into mental instability in this searching, character-driven debut. Moody and flamboyant, Heirah Rae was neither happy nor accepted in tiny Harper, Louisiana, and although she had briefly escaped before, this time it is permanent. Battered by waves of grief, rage, love, longing, and guilt, Nissa becomes even more mercurial than her mother, falling suddenly into screaming tantrums, attacking those around her, twice attempting suicide, all the while trying to understand why Heirah left. Nissa also wonders how her kind, patient, inarticulate father, Ivar, could take up with another woman shortly after Heirah leaves. Readers will find the adult characters’ tolerance for Nissa’s wild behavior hard to credit, but LaFaye creates a sparky, tough-love friendship between her and her classmate Mary, and through flashbacks makes Heirah’s flight—from a life which narrow-minded, small-town gossip and multiple miscarriages had made a living hell—easier to comprehend. Heirah does return, if only to say goodbye, to promise to keep in touch, and to indirectly help Nissa accept her father’s remarriage. Even if there is no end to books about shattered families living in small southern towns, LaFaye depicts complex, profoundly disturbed characters with a sure hand, and this turbulent story joins Ruth White’s Belle Prater’s Boy (1996) as a cut above the rest. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-689-81513-1
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998




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