TREE BY LEAF
In a spiritual companion to The Runner, Clothilde--another child with an angry, paternalistic heritage--emerges from a traumatic summer with the strength and resolve to go on to a productive life. When Father went off to WW I, his tyrannical Boston Brahmin father refused to support Mother (scorned as a Catholic orphan) and the children; now Father has returned with a cruelly scarred face and is living hidden in the boathouse on the Maine peninsula that Clothilde has inherited. Mother, who has competently managed the nearby farmhouse for four years, reverts to the ladylike behavior she erroneously believes Father requires, and says that Clothilde's land must be sold to support the family and that Clothilde must do the housework. In an agony of helpless frustration, Clothilde hears a Voice--a hallucination precipitated by the intolerable situation, or by God. "Why do you make wars?" she asks. The Voice replies, ". . .men do," and inquires, "What would you mend?" She requests gifts for others, including healing for Father, and her wishes are granted--but not as she envisions; yet the ensuing tragedies, by their own inexorable logic, lead to healing and the understanding that things that are to grow cannot be controlled. Clothilde's powerful vision is wiser than even an extraordinarily perceptive child of 12 (which she is) could generate; but as the crux of this complex, beautifully structured novel, it serves its purpose well. Not an easy book nor one destined to be popular, but surely rewarding for thoughtful readers.