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A coming-of-age novel (author's first) set in the Maine paper-mill town of Locke Horn. Covering a year in the lives of two families, the novel opens at a community campsite where the Bensons and the Hungerfords pitch tents for the summer in order to be free of the oppressively sulphurous fumes of the paper mill (though the men still make the commute into town to work their shifts there). The Benson's older daughter, Sheila, has gone for the summer to work in New York, leaving her slightly younger sister, Ruth Benson, to form an increasingly intense relationship with two of the five Hungerford children, Evelyn and her brother Forrest, both aspiring painters (they're in or near the end of high school). Evelyn wears glasses and looks upon the world with an acerbic, caustic view often disconcertingly advanced for her years; Forrest quietly pursues his gift for art, accepts Evelyn's selfless advocacy of his talent, and becomes increasingly close to Ruth Benson, whom he sketches, sculpts, and, later, in the hay, embraces. With their families back in town for the winter, Evelyn works in a greasy spoon to help save money for Forrest's journey to art school; Ruth is discovered to be a brilliant singer; and Forrest and Evelyn's father is killed in the mill when his shirt gets caught in a roller (Forrest later does a painting of shirts: ""Forrest was a genius! Out of their father's death, Forrest had created life""). At end, Forrest is in New York, star of his art class; Ruth Benson may or may not continue to be part of his life; and Evelyn, who has earlier destroyed all her works, gets out Forrest's old easel and, half in a blind panic, begins again to draw. Old tropes done sometimes with an earnest charm, though the kids' psychology is more adult than convincingly late-adolescent, and the author's ear is at times startlingly untuned (""Fresh bacon grease coated Evelyn's senses""; or, at a time of intense feeling, ""Her nose ran into her mouth""). A talent still emerging.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Algonquin