WILLIAM by Irene Hunt


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This seems to be the season for struggling orphans and ad hoc families; Hunt goes a step farther and makes her Florida household interracial. It's headed up by sixteen-year-old Sarah (white), who arrives, pregnant, to stay in an elderly cousin's now unoccupied house next door to black narrator William, then eight, his sisters Amy (thirteen) and blind Carla (four), and their widowed Mama who is dying. Sarah had planned to have the baby adopted, but it comes during a hurricane; Mama helps to birth it in the kitchen, and. . . well, there they are three years later, golden-haired Elizabeth and all. As projected here, William's concern throughout is centered exclusively on the family and its problems: Sarah's trouble with pretty, rebellious Amy who goes off to a drunken party; Carla's eye surgery, paid for by donations from just about everyone; and above all the need to stay together, which William feels is threatened when townspeople start urging Sarah to develop her considerable painting talent at a Chicago art school. But the kindness of outsiders knows no limits, and just as neighbors and others have helped the family all along, Sarah's ""faraway"" cousin (and a friend of William's family from her earlier residence there) returns to take over the household and send Sarah off to study art. Hunt writes believably and does well by the individual scenes and conversations, which strongly reinforce the situation's sentimental appeal. But all the caring and kindness and communal effort make for a simplistic statement and a one-dimensional novel, and super-responsible William is, ultimately, just as flat as a character.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1977
Publisher: Scribners