FORMS OF SHELTER by Angela Davis-Gardner


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 Adolescent isolation and vulnerability invaded by an alien sexual restlessness, so delightfully and touchingly visited in Davis-Gardner's first novel (Felice, 1982), becomes a barren vista of loss and menace in this striking story of a family's disintegration and a young girl's search for shelter during desertion, exploitation, and, then, violence. One night, while Beryl slept, her natural father--in whose arms, at five, she experienced the best and most secure love as they fed a pony in Virginia dawns--left forever wife Beatrice, Beryl, and her younger brother Stevie. Bright but scattered and desperate Beatrice, along with the children, will stay for over two years in the grim household of her parents--a hellfire preacher and the purse-lipped grandmother who Beryl knows, nonetheless, loves her. Then enter red-haired Jack Fonteyn, chairman of classics at the university and independently wealthy. He is, Beatrice declares, their ``savior.'' After the marriage, the children move into Jack's ``grey cement box'' with the white marble floors where he has cached a veritable honeycomb of gifts for them. Stevie doesn't like him; Beryl is wary, will not betray her father. But her vision of Daddy crimps slowly--in hatred of his desertion, in hatred of Jack and his easy ``understanding,'' in hatred of self. Jack, the overlord of metamorphoses (he's translating Ovid)--whom Beryl will remember as faceless, in his enveloping beekeeping suit (Jack's bees mumble throughout like a warning chorus)--sets about transforming Beatrice into a writer of fiction (she tries, she believes); sloughs off Stevie; and grooms Beryl to accept his ``fatherly'' love. But Jack, who has a killer ego of chilling potency, will produce no winged creatures but, rather, cripples in cocoons of his own needs. At the close, the adult Beryl finds no shelter in the past--except a real father's shadow, a grandmother's quiet garden. Cleanly, vigorously styled, with skillful portraits of predator and victims and murmurous with mythic overtones. A fine and moving novel.*justify no*

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-395-59312-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991


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