RIDE THE PINE SAPLING by Beth Bland Engel

RIDE THE PINE SAPLING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ann knows that she's behaving childishly, but there are reasons for resentment. Her father is one of the Depression unemployed and she is squeezed into a back hall so her room, like her parents', can be rented out. One of the hated roomers is a snake-handling and snakelike revivalist preacher who gives her the creeps, but no one will hear her complaints. Mama is pregnant against doctor's orders and Ann is the last to be told. Her best friend has moved to Texas; a grandmother dies slowly next door and then doesn't leave the inheritance Ann's parents had expected; and even loving Hallie, the black maid, has her life's savings stolen by a no-good sister. Through all of this Engel effectively evokes the atmosphere of being almost twelve in 1930s Georgia, but at last she overdoes it. The preacher, a one-dimensional but all-purpose villain, stirs up racist feeling which results in Mama being seriously injured and hospitalized and the black part of town (Hallie's) being set on fire; then, on the night of the fire, he breaks into Ann's room and declares himself the Savior of the world while feeling her up under her pajamas. Following these events we get a humble discourse on prejudice by the resident nice bad woman, and--worse, because more central--such declarations and demonstrations of love between Ann and Hallie that that peculiar Southern relationship loses all the credibility which earlier passages had established. Too bad, because Ann's initial brooding discontentment strikes a chord.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row