THE CAPE ANN by Faith Sullivan


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Sullivan (Repent, Lanny Merkel; Watch Dog; Mrs. Demming and the Mythical Beast) has drawn portraits of marriage from a variety of angles in her work, and each one shows people caught in some kind of cage--gilded or not. This time the backdrop is Depression-era Harvester, Minnesota, and the story is told by a little girl named Lark--the small bird, caged in with her parents' unhappiness. Freedom for Lark and her mother, Arlene, would mean owning a house instead of living in a made-over section of the railway depot where Lark's father, Willie, works. Specifically, their goal is The Cape Ann, plan #127, in their house catalogue--a cottage with dormer windows and two bathrooms. Spunky Arlene starts her own typing business and saves money for a down payment; but Willie has a knack for losing big at poker games, and each time the house seems within reach, a fresh disaster strikes. It's an old story--ma's nest egg, pa's drinking and gambling--but Lark's viewpoint gives it new life. She's a disarming narrator. Propelled by catechism classes and the stolid morality that childhood affords, she tries to figure out where she fits between right and wrong, heaven and hell, Myrna Loy movies and Knights of Columbus picnics. Lark's blend of innocence (she believes the stork brings babies) and prescience (she dreams of disasters) works especially well--although Sullivan errs in having her be six years old when the novel begins; those are not enough years to contain this child's insights. But in the end--when freedom arrives in an unexpected, and not entirely happy, form, and it's clear that Lark will find her wings--we're just sorry to let her go. Her story is sweet and sad and wise, as all-telling as a caged bird's lament.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1988
ISBN: 0307716953
Publisher: Crown