JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK by Audrey Couloumbis


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A sensitive, nicely written, but very familiar coming-of-age first novel starring a precocious 13-year-old narrator and her drunken stepdad. Allie Drew, growing up in Iowa in 1954, lives with her mother, Nora, and her drunken stepfather, Daddy Jim, while her much-loved real dad Robert is off touring the world with traveling state-fairs. An introspective child--made more so by the death of her favorite cousin in a farming accident as the novel begins--Allie writes stories and keeps to herself a good deal (much of the plot concerns what Allie overhears from her various nooks and crannies), but this reclusiveness isn't protection enough from Daddy Jim, who begins to make passes at her. Nora is aware of her husband's abuse but is too frightened to do anything about it. In typical sociology-textbook fashion, Daddy Jim beats Nora (once even breaking her arm) and Allie, but they take the blame masochistically on themselves, and the town they live in turns a blind eye. Then Daddy Jim gets really crazy when Allie begins to romance a nice local boy named Nate; Jim is put in the loony bin, but manages to get out and come after the family in a ferocious finale. The ending is suitably dramatic, but Couloumbis telegraphs it a mile away by allowing Nora and Allie to remain as passive punching bags for so long. The rest of the novel is a repetitious--scene after scene detailing Allie's poetic pain--and often standard adolescent melodrama.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's