CLEO by Jean Brody


Email this review


 A gutsy country girl with a well-developed voice tells her story. Cleo makes bad decisions, but she's so engaging that her indiscretions are easy to forgive. Born in 1912, she lives in rural Robina, Okla., until she is 15, when, after reading Alexandra David-Neel's My Journey to Lhasa, she's struck by wanderlust. She runs away from her Bible-thumping mother to Tulsa, where she earns a living playing trumpet in a speakeasy. There she falls in love with the proprietor, Ed Shannon, and in lust with a handsome preacher in her boarding house, Robin Endicott. Ed is an honorable and well- bred man whose feelings toward Cleo are paternal as long as she's underage. Robby is a scoundrel who takes Cleo's virginity--freely given--and then tries to go further than she's comfortable with. No dainty flower she, Cleo whacks the preacher with her horn, and he flees, leaving her with his two perfect front teeth as a souvenir. When she turns 18, Cleo begins dating Ed. They marry and have ten happy years and two children together. But one day, Ed, now an assistant DA, gets into his car with their two children, and in a loud explosion, the three are blown up. Cleo returns home to Robina, where she lives with her mother and grandmother in an uneasy peace founded on denial. She farms, writes down her grandmother's memories, and eventually begins to recover. Cleo goes to California, where she runs into Robby, as gorgeous as ever with a bridge to replace his lost teeth. They marry--she for the sex, he for the sex and to have a politically desirable wife--but separate when their love life fails. Cleo again returns to Robina to run her deceased grandmother's farm and have a child out of wedlock with part-Creek Indian Seth Mackenzie, holy man and gardener. Brody (A Coven of Women, 1987, etc.) explores women's narratives and relationships with wit and insight.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11761-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994