JEENEY RAY by Iris Dorafeld


Email this review


A first novel tackles a difficult area- a first person approach to the story of an afflicted child and results in an effective portrayal of an orphan who surmounts her difficulties -- at a cost. Jeeney Ray, raised by an understanding grandmother, knows the Bible, birds and wild life, but is desperately loved and hated by her older brother Zeke. When their grandmother dies Zeke marries Zelda who -- loud and vulgar -- is Jeeney's protection, helps her get to school, comforts her when dismal failure results, and defies Zeke when he attacks Jim, the ditch walker, who gives Jeeney the patient, warm understanding and help she craves. Her speech and motor abilities become more controlled, her job at the Pink lantern goes smoothly, but the suicide of a customer and the possibility that Jeeney is a murderer bring about a trial in which Jeeney's Biblical training, her knowledge of birds and her clearance by a specialist reveal the secret of her disabilities (she is a spastic). A ""hidden person"" disclosed in all the tortures of a ""terrible want"" is reflected in the agonies of the inability to communicate, the exhausting tantrums that result, and the hope which is often turned to despair -- that someone, some day, will recognize that she is not a half wit or an idiot but a human who can work towards an adjustment to society. Those who have lived and worked with this type of disability will be familiar with the manifestations vividly described; for others there is the pitiable state resulting from ignorant handling; for all this touching picture should evoke sympathy.

Publisher: Viking