THE KEEPING ROOM by Betty Levin

THE KEEPING ROOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Deeply rooted in a still partially rural Massachusetts town, this has far more here-and-now texture, and less otherworld magic, than did Levin's time trips to ancient Ireland. Nevertheless it opens with references to a ""Candlewood curse,"" while establishing, before we're ready to care, the mechanical set-up that gets the story in gear: Hal's young, divorced social studies teacher Lew has assigned a local-history project, delegated Hal to dig up the past on the Candlewood back lot, and railroaded him into taking Lew's five-year-old daughter Emily along on his Wednesday forays. There are also very early warnings, from the 80-some-year-old Titcombs, a brother and sister whose family first settled the property, of a mysterious lost child and a possible similar fate for Emily if she wanders there unattended. Talking with old Harriet Titcomb and poking about on the property, Hal becomes preoccupied with Hannah, the initial lost child of a century and a half earlier, and gradually pieces out her story. There are hints of a haunting by Hannah; her cow also makes an appearance; and there's a real cow (?), somehow linked with the other, which claims Hal's intense attention. Emily disappears as expected and remains missing until a bulldozer uncovers Hannah's bones and they are buried. Only then, as Harriet has predicted, does Emily turn up--ostensibly a victim of kidnapping by her unstable mother, but Hal and Harriet and Emily herself have other ideas. As Hal's parents recognize with concern, few boys would become as engrossed as he is in Hannah's pathetic story. For the similarly susceptible, Levin creates an atmosphere thick with intensity, conviction, and, this time, some contemporary sub-plot villains and tangible homey props.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1981
Publisher: Greenwillow