The author of Pay It Forward (2000) proves she has some staying power with this sad-funny love triangle of neighbors and caregivers who alternately tell their story over the course of 25 years.
The actions of a brave 13-year-old part-black, part-Korean girl named Pearl Sung get the narrative moving with a bang: Waylaid by a cop who seduces her, she shoots him dead with his own gun after they have sex, and the ramifications will haunt her the rest of her life. Pregnant by the officer, she has to raise a visually handicapped boy with asthma, Leonard, who will take up his own side of the story once Pearl disappears from his life at age five. Leonard is left largely in the care of downstairs neighbor Mitch Devereaux, a 25-year-old computer programmer running his own software company out of his apartment. Mitch is sympathetic to Leonard’s solitary plight, and cares for him for years before he can be adopted by the kindly couple Jake and Mona; to flesh out the unorthodox household, the mayor’s wife, Barb, a fetching older woman, appears irregularly to sleep with Mitch, while Mitch maintains the mayor’s computer system during his congressional campaigns. Each of the protagonists, Pearl, Leonard and Mitch, take turns telling their sides of the story, and as they age, the dénouement is satisfyingly suspenseful.
Sparked with humanity and a lively vernacular.