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As in her innovative I Wish This War Were Over (1984), poet O'Hehir infuses this story of two young adult runaways in the postwar 50s with the excitement, the energy, of journeying--away from somber home destinies and toward the new and the possible. With a playful symbolism, O'Hehir underscores the ancient underpinnings of a tale of Youth's heroic voyage into adulthood. In the faded community of French Ford (California), founded by the Dowell family years ago as a Socialist paradise, live the death, dogged Dowells (a law unto them-selves) and the motorcycle/gun-toting McCrackens. Grace Dowell (19), to the glowering wonderment of fiÅncÉ Cousin Steve, seems to be free of the family ""despair"" in which Steve has mired his intelligence. David McCracken, like Grace, also had a nasty family legacy and ran away when he and Grace were third graders. But it is David who now appears all grown-up and as Rescuer, while Grace and her dotty 83-year-old great-aunt Sybil are settled at the bottom of an abandoned mine--appropriately named ""Diaspora."" (Sybil is a persistent sibyl who'll be popping up later on in the journey, along with another seer/guide, Fleesha the Futurist.) But when doomed Steve makes a terrible confession to Grace--about David's brother's murder--both are suddenly on the run from home. Grace cheerfully works at jolly jobs (from ""bally girl"" in Henry's Fun Show to ""squirter"" in a peanut-butter sandwich factory), but eventually David finds her. The armored innocence of the Grace-and-David pair (""sweet together"") attracts kindness all the way. At the last, there's an idyll in a ghost town outside a corrupt world; and, with Sybil and Fleesha in attendance, there'll be a last death, resolution, and a new life. O'Hehir's symbolic fillips are fun: the young lovers fuse beings under buzzing power pylons, later under an arc light's ""brooding mechanical noise""; a hand-wrought key, dubbed by narrator Grace as that to ""Castle Perious,"" opens a door to a moonlit pool and first sex. Although the Way of Grace and David is marked by horrid and gloomy deaths, it's the flourish of Youth's stepping-out that gives this tale the flavor of old heroic journeys.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Atheneum