REMEMBER THIS by Dinitia Smith


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Smith's second novel (Hard Rain, 1980): a coming-of-age chronicle about a young writer who investigates skeletons in her family's closet. The book's early sections in England, told from a child's point of view, are fresh and original, piquant with insight, while the rest is workmanlike. Laura, a writer living in a New York loft, remembers eavesdropping on her diplomat father (Hal) and her mother. The point of view effectively renders a child's awkwardness and confusion as a series of tragedies strikes the family: first marital tension and a pregnancy that results in the mother's death during childbirth, then Hal's marriage to lover Barbara, followed by a messy divorce and custody battle for Simon (Barbara's child). Laura and Simon develop their own secret "egg language," but Simon's father wins the custody battle, and Simon disappears from Laura's life. The rest of the book details Laura's struggle to reclaim her past: she finds out her father never returned to the hospital to be at her mother's deathbed and that his affair with Barbara began long before her mother's death. Then Laura has a short-lived affair with a family man (which successfully dramatizes the psychology of "the other woman") and learns that Simon is a criminal; eventually he appears at her door and tells her his whole sad story (manslaughter, not his fault). Hal comes to her apartment (without Barbara), meets Simon but fights with Laura, whereupon Hal leaves and Laura sleeps with her stepbrother, whereupon Simon leaves and Laura flies to England to visit Simon's father, and then her old family doctor, who reveals that her mother wanted to die. Having laid old bones to rest, Laura is content and wishes everyone well--including her former lover and his boy. A solid effort, then, notable for its childhood sections and otherwise unexceptional but well-crafted enough to get the job done.

ISBN: 8050-1036-X
Publisher: Henry Holt
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