Seemingly alone after the death of her father, Theena bravely faces a frightening world that is often unfriendly to young women just trying to survive in Craig’s historical novel.

The youngest of three girls, Theena (short for Athena) is suddenly adrift when her father passes away. Before his death, he makes Theena promise to marry rich suitor Randolph Chase if asked. Her father knows, even if Theena doesn’t, that 19th-century Florida is not a nurturing place for a woman. Her mother abandoned the family a while ago, and Theena’s father knew his other two daughters (Hera and Dite—the latter short for Aphrodite) wouldn’t wait long to take their leave of the family homestead. Theena does as her father asked, but her heart isn’t in it. She allows herself to believe she’s in love with Randolph because she knows it’s the smart thing to do, but having grown up in South Florida between the Everglades and Atlantic Ocean, she would much rather take her dog fishing than spend the day inside embroidering with a mother-in-law who thinks she’s nothing more than gold-digging trash. The author has a strong, smart heroine in Theena, though she’s not perfect; she doesn’t always make the “right” decision, but her actions make sense for her in the moment, and it’s those decisions that push the story forward. In grief, she shares a night with her best friend, Billy. Against her better judgment, she can’t help being in love with her sister’s husband, Jack. Craig infuses her tale with rich emotion and, by naming the three main characters after Greek goddesses, she’s able to take a shortcut in describing who these women are; Theena is wise and courageous, Hera is jealous by nature and Dite is a cold beauty. This allows the reader to jump right into the plot, and a dizzying plot it is. Some things seem to happen too quickly with the tipping points occurring off the page. For instance, Theena falls into Jack’s bed, even after she swore that she would be faithful to her husband, as well as swearing that she would never hurt her sister that way, leaving the reader confused as to her motivations. However, it’s such a quick, rip-roaring read that these small holes don’t deflate the overall tale. It’s a fun novel filled with rich characters. The backwaters of post-Civil War South Florida could hardly be further apart from ancient Greece, yet Craig infuses her coming-of-age tale with the pathos and heroism one might find in myths, but on an all-too-human scale.


Pub Date: March 1, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: Gretchen Craig

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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