McKinney-Whetstone (Tumbling, 1996) scores big on mood and language, less on plot and character. A trio of Philadelphia-born...

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McKinney-Whetstone (Tumbling, 1996) scores big on mood and language, less on plot and character. A trio of Philadelphia-born sisters is the focus of this solid if uninspired second novel: Shern, Victoria, and Bliss are born to loving, well-meaning parents, but the forces of circumstance cause their lives to change drastically one day in 1965. Their mother, the light-skinned, lighthearted Clarise, and their father, the dark-skinned, dashing Finch, have a charmed marriage--until Finch's catering business hits rocky waters, and dire financial need causes him to go out on a fateful crabbing trip. An inexperienced boater, he drowns in a sudden storm, thinking, as he dies, of Clarise and the girls. Clarise, in mourning, is prescribed Valium; no one knows that she's allergic to the drug, and so when she collapses it's assumed that she's attempted suicide by overdose and is having a breakdown caused by her husband's death. As a result, Clarise is institutionalized and the girls are assigned to foster care. They end up living with the hard-edged Mae, a gambler, and her neglected daughter Ramona, in a blue-collar neighborhood where everything is foreign to them. Although Mae is decent to Shern, Victoria, and Bliss, she has some serious problems of her own, and her abusive behavior toward Ramona strains credibility, even though Ramona herself is not the most lovable of characters. In fact, Ramona's interactions with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's father are among the more disturbing elements in the story. Meanwhile, Clarise survives her ordeal in the asylum, but when she gets out, she can't at first find her daughters. It takes time, persistence, and luck, but eventually the family is reunited, and even Mae and Ramona seem moved to try to rebuild their own relationship. A satisfying end makes up, somewhat, for a convoluted storyline. McKinney-Whetstone's material this time, though, is not nearly as strong as her voice.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1998

ISBN: 0688166407

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1998

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