KITE by Ed. Minus
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Kite Cummings, 15, is an orphan reclaimed, so to speak, when his aunt and uncle--the Hamptons, peach-growers in South Carolina--ask him to come live with them. Mr. and Mrs. Hampton have lost their only child in an accident; Kite is only happy to be whatever substitute he can manage--even though leaving the orphanage means leaving the sexual comforts of Jarlene, another orphan. And, with the Hamptons, Kite finds an Eden of kindness and sadness and security--as well as mountains (Kite can see them out his bedroom window), new friends, and the general goodness of small-town/rural life. Like St. Augustine, however, Kite feels like the dirtiest thief in the garden, feels that his unruly adolescent sexual urges--dirty, pictures and thoughts, masturbation, a great attractiveness for the local girls--will somehow mess it all up. So the worse he feels (and fears) about himself, the better Kite tries to be--while confronting strange, peripheral, undermining forces: a shadowy, perhaps retarded, black man named Boydy; a magical glass panel found in Boydy's house; an earthquake; a near-drowning in the washing room of the peach orchard; and--ultimately--Kite's own departure from this Eden. . . when he's forced to go back and marry Jarlene (who has declared herself pregnant). First-novelist Minus, with an utterly unaffected, unassuming style and pacing, has thus written a version of the Adamic myth--with a spareness that lets us feel it all anew. The storytelling is bathed in general amity, evoking the peaceable kingdom of goodness with unforced credibility; the Biblical echoes are subtle, virtually invisible at first; and, whether or not the reader consciously follows the Eden parallels here, this fine debut--deeply moving in its rendering of a paradise gained and lost--is quiet, resonant, richly satisfying fiction.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking