TAKEN IN by Beverly Coyle


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A dramatic and unusually quirky portrayal of a shattered Florida family, by the author of The Kneeling Bus (1993) and In Troubled Waters (1990). To a degree, this is Coyle’s venture into Anne Tyler or Alice Hoffman territory (her plot this time bears surface resemblances to Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist). It’s a story about the emotional damage sustained, and the common healing shared by, a neighborhood-full of characters whose unlikely collision surprises us as much as it does them. College admissions director Malcolm Robb and his wife Susan lead a comfortable middle-class life in the nothing-much town of Wyman, Florida, with their teenaged daughter Gretchen (a spirited kid who has a literal flair for drama) and her older brother Matt, whose polite religiosity challenges his parents’ college dreams for him, as well as their understanding of who he really is. The “mystery of Matt” inadvertently precipitates a crisis involving a young prostitute named Angela, her older “boyfriend” (and worse) Cooper, and—in an ingenious twist—Oren Abel, the Robbs’ widowed neighbor, who secretly loves the radiant Susan and jumps at the chance to aid her and her loved ones. Therein lies this extremely interesting novel’s single serious flaw: Oren’s involvement in Matt’s innocent wish to ’save— Angela produces a credulity-stretching development that exiles him from his own home and brings Angela and the unstable Cooper dangerously close to the Robbs. Still, the ensuing complications stimulate a rich analysis of ordinary people in extremis that gathers impressive depth and pathos as Coyle lets each of her surviving characters in turn tell, and begin to comprehend, his or her part of the story. Emotional, interrogatory prose—heightened by omniscient commentary—memorably captures the jagged quality of a moving depiction of flawed, decent people trying to respect one another’s differences and do the right thing.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-670-86398-X
Page count: 305pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998