Margaret Kennedy's skill in portrayal of children rescues this from being neither a topnotch story nor a wholly successful...



Margaret Kennedy's skill in portrayal of children rescues this from being neither a topnotch story nor a wholly successful satire. She has tried to do the latter and ends by confusing the focus of her story. The ""act of God"" of the title is a violent thunderstorm which succeeds in disrupting a good many lives. Conrad Swann, a sculptor of note whose life had gone awry with the death of his wife, had sought escape from himself by running away with the wife of his best friend, Frank, who happens also to be his agent. With Conrad and Liz are her two children and his three, and very little wherewithal to keep the household going. With the storm, Conrad-does a blackout and wanders off, ultimately turning up, with another name as a stone cutter's assistant. Liz rejects the responsibility and walks out on the situation, leaving Serafina, ten, to shift for the five youngsters. Their play house tree had been destroyed by the storm, but they rescued a twisted iron bench and dragged it to the shed, placing it among what they called the ""Arfitax"" -- in a game they had made up to account for Swann's strange creations. There it is discovered when Frank comes in answer to a strange letter from Conrad, to determine the value of his latest work, designed for a contest. The story then shifts focus to the little circle of admirers and hangers-on who pretend that this is great art, that it must be purchased for the town, that those who hate it are ignoramuses. On the fringe of this is Dickie Pattison, restive in the town where he feels he has no future, but not quite sure of himself, and Christina, his wife, who knows he thinks her beneath him. Their marriage is heading for the rocks -- and only an eleventh hour miracle starts it on a new path. One gets the turmoil of the town, shocked by the desertion of the Swann children, the disappearance of Swann himself, the question of this strange work of art. And in the end, it is really only the children who come through as real personalities, who hold the threads and bring the scattered interests back into focus.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 1954


Page Count: -

Publisher: Rinehart

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1954