Bizou, at 13, is a half-black, half-French gamin, wise about just about everything (especially boys and sex) except her...



Bizou, at 13, is a half-black, half-French gamin, wise about just about everything (especially boys and sex) except her mother's beginnings--and therein lies Klein's latest unforced offbeat tale: one of her best. On the plane to New York for her first American visit, Bizou wonders why her mother, beautiful black Parisian model Tranquility, is going back--""when all along she's said how she hates America and her family?"" Tranquility has never even told Bizou her maiden name, or said where her family lives--maybe they got mad at her for marrying Bizou's French photojournalist father, since dead in Vietnam. Maybe Tranquility wanted no more to do with American racism. Bizou gets talking with a fellow-passenger, 23-year-old Nicholas, headed back to the US, reluctantly, to meal school; when Mama awakes, she and Nicholas hit it off; the three check in at a hotel near the airport; at breakfast, there's an incident interpretable as racist; sightseeing, they run into more trouble; the next day, Mama disappears--leaving only an elliptical note telling Bizou to stay with Nicholas (and leaving him some money). Will Mama come back? Neither of them knows. Nicholas takes Bizou along to Vermont to see his old girlfriend Tara--the organized type, who went right into reed school from college. Things don't work out. Nicholas extracts from Bizou the name of her American boyfriend Peter, whose family has returned to Washington; after a call, they head there. But Peter's (black) father questions Bizou ""like he didn't trust me."" (And Peter-the-good-kisser, who probably has a new girlfriend, is after Bizou even in his pajamas.) On Nicholas' urging, Bizou remembers that her mother pasted part of an envelope, an odd thing to do, in her address book. Piece-by-piece, she puts together a name, a zip-code number, some kind of connection with school, the name of the school or place--and Bizou and Nicholas make contact with Anita Pyne, in Swarthmore, Pa., who would love to see Tranquility's daughter. Anita, Mama's highschool friend, is a relaxed, capable sort with an adopted 16-year-old son, Duff--the product of a teenage liaison, who has a grandfather in a nursing home nearby. The reader's suspicions are confirmed when Nicholas and Bizou join Anita and Duff on their weekly visit to old, black Mr. Beal. . . and Anita ""softly"" tells him, after he's made much of Bizou, that ""she's Tranquility's little girl."" It will be a rare reader who doesn't well-up, so beautifully does Klein underplay the scene. And, without compromising, she effects an understanding between sudden-step-siblings Bizou and Duff, a degree of acceptance on Duff's part, and Tranquility's difficult reunion with Bizou--who will never quite understand her mother's desertion, and so never quite forgive her. (The one excess is Anita-and-Nicholas' instant mutual passion.) But back in Paris, with a Swarthmore summer in prospect, Bizou remembers her father saying ""he didn't want to screen anything out."" As good a lesson as any, especially when adult problems begin to crowd in.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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