Email this review


 A young girl abandoned by her mother struggles to discover her origins in Denver's early-'70s hippie scene in a compelling coming- of-age debut. Five-year-old Sarajean Henry has a home and a father of sorts, but her life in downtown Denver in 1969 is decidedly exotic. Though she doesn't know it, the man she lives with isn't actually her father, and the woman who crashes occasionally in the purple-walled apartment downstairs is really her mother, but the hippie world she grows up in--a community of refugees from the conservative Midwest- -is conspiring to keep the truth of her origins from her. As Sarajean matures and reaches adolescence, she finds herself drifting from one funky apartment to another, searching for a mother's tenderness (though unable even to identify her yearning) in a cup of herbal tea with Lady Jane, a Joni Mitchelllike space cadet in embroidered jeans and wooden clogs; a friendship (and a part-time job) with the grandmotherly owner of the local thrift shop; poetry sessions with the elusive, stoned-out Tina Blue, who confides to Sarajean that she has ``fled the dark heart of America'' and is hiding; and increasingly risky escapades with Lalena, Sarajean's best friend, whose sexual abuse by her Vietnam- vet, drug-pushing father epitomizes the community's casual irresponsibility toward their young. Jimmy Henry, Sarajean's own burnt-out surrogate father, is too caught up in his heroin addiction and subsequent recovery to realize that Sarajean needs to know who her mother is. He clearly needs Sarajean, though, for stability in his life, and it's his imperfect love that saves the girl when she flees across America, seeking her mother and a stable identity for herself. An extraordinarily powerful first novel in which what is not said often seems infinitely more important than what is. Sarajean is impossible to forget. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 31st, 1997
ISBN: 1-56512-154-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997


IndieThe STATE OF GRACE by Carrie Hannah
by Carrie Hannah