A WORLD LIKE THIS by Helen Benedict

A WORLD LIKE THIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sad, vital story, gritty with life, set within the blazing injustices, small oases of comfort, and sour landscapes of poverty and prison--a tale about a vulnerable, hapless teen-ager from the industrial city of Birmingham, England, whose cycle of wounding rejections has sent her twice to a Borstal. Seventeen-year-old Brandy is finally released from the Borstal where she has been the lover of a pitiable, pious clod of a warder (prison matron)--another product or a dismal home. To Brandy's amazed delight she's met by older sister Liz, who has pretty much a foothold on a solid life: Liz left drunken Mum five years ago and is married to beer-bellied Ron, has three-year-old Bobby, and works as a hairdresser. Now, Liz takes Brandy to her home in the seaside city of Brighton, and Brandy--dazzled by the freedom--is disoriented: ""the open sky, the sight of the sea. . .the number of choices she had to make, made her sick with vertigo."" Then, still caught up in the prison survival habit of conjuring up one's own reality, Brandy makes a near-fatal error, is horribly beaten by Ron, and finally stumbles ""home"" to mother Mary, who, fuddled and tired, greets her with: ""What the hell are you doing here?"" But Liz the fighter--now knowledgeable in two worlds (the hard-won stability of home and job, and the childhood cage of booze, cruelty, and poverty) follows along with Bobby and confronts Mum to save Brandy. There'll be violence and rejection for Brandy, and ruthless but releasing sex for Liz, before the return to Brighton. . .and hope. Brandy, though, will return to the Borstal, where awaits the warder, nobly (if pathetically) planning her rescue. The worlds of the two sisters, ringing with tangy urban slang, are tough and true, and the saga of the Borstal girl, who cried for ""the crack in her that never mended,"" is undeniably poignant. A solidly peopled, conscientious first novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1989
Publisher: Dutton