UGLY GIRL by Barbara Rex

UGLY GIRL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As evidenced in her earlier novels, Rex has a knowing eye for some of the vagaries of old-family Philadelphia society; unfortunately, however, her characters are again blown every which way by unsupported currents of heavy social commentary and murky implausibilities of plot. Rex's 1920s/'30s heroine is Eva Colby--who's not pretty, as her tony guardians, Frederick and Anna Severn, are well aware. Frederick is an anthropologist, Anna writes severe little nature poems; they have reluctantly taken in step-grandchild Eva, along with real grandchild David, now that the step-siblings have been orphaned by an auto accident. And so 15-year-old Eva winds up at the socially elite lakeside ""camp,"" where she meets oddly lush newcomer Joyce Framley--who's beautiful, spoiled, and determined enough to snare blue-blooded David as a husband. Eva, secretly in love with her ""brother"" (who tutors her through the terrifying social whirl), is crushed. About to be cast off by the Severns, she marries gentle fledgling banker Newlin Slatter--with happy, humble domesticity. . . but one problem: Newlin cannot sire a child. So, on Eva's request, David fills in as biological father: baby Kenneth is conceived during one session in David's car. And from there on the unlikelihoods mount--as Newlin develops strange powers (curing warts, predicting deaths, healing), heads a neighbor-manned organization called ""Healing Grace,"" becomes vain and frightening. . . with tragic results: little Kenny is killed by a car after a dreadful church-healing session. The windup, then: Eva leaves Newlin, ends an exploitee relationship with Joyce (a best-selling writer, thanks to Eva's ill-paid editing), rejects David's settled Severn values, and heads for a fresh independent life in New York. Some amusing ping-pong dialogue and hints of satiric potential--but highly erratic work overall, increasingly uncertain in tone and focus as it rambles along.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1982
Publisher: Norton