SPACE by Jesse Lee Kercheval


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 A sweetly honest memoir of a girl growing up amid the glare of the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Kercheval's father, a West Point graduate who left the army rather than serve in Vietnam, moved his family from Washington, D.C., to Cocoa, Fla., when the author was 10 years old. This was the setting of her adventurous mother's ultimate collapse from too much Valium and bourbon and of novelist Kercheval's (The Museum of Happiness, 1993) fascination with the nearby space center's early sorties to the moon. Her memories themselves were launched by a shoeboxful of family snapshots sent by her sister Carol, two years her senior and the one who, throughout their childhood, kept the sentimental flame of family burning. It's Carol who demands, typically, ``that we . . . put up a Christmas tree, [and] eat in the dining room at Thanksgiving,'' and who urgently reminds her sister on other occasions that ``we don't do things like that.'' ``Things like that'' range from not wearing shoes when they go out to play to drugs and alcohol (at 16). Jesse meanwhile falls out of a treehouse, has to do time in a body-brace and a wheelchair, and confronts racism and menstruation. Also on her agenda of challenges are sex, drugs, death, the meaning of life, and most of all, the race to the moon. Eventually, ``one by one,'' the whole family gets dispersed--Carol to teach, the flower-child author to wed, and her father to seek a divorce, leaving her drugged-out mother behind. Rising to the occasion, though, the mother drops her Valium and booze to remarry the author's father--just as Kercheval herself is getting a divorce and starting a new life. A familiar coming-of-age story, but punctuated by the romance and thunder of rockets entering space. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56512-146-5
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


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