MENDOCINO by Judith Greber


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Saccharine, unsatisfying generational saga about an ever-swelling California family. In 1842, Russian immigrant Nicolai Beriankov elects to stay behind in northern California with his Kashaya Indian wife, Anna, and their children, rather than give up with other Russian settlers and head back to the motherland. Hiding from gold-rushers and slavers (son Piotr was stolen by Mexicans and never found), Nicolai and Anna make a pilgrimage to the site of present-day Mendocino; to their disgust, a town grows up around them. Nicolai's logger son, Alexander, marries the lovely Boston schoolteacher from whom he belatedly learns his ABC's; she gives him twin sons but can't cope with the wilderness and heads back east, leaving Alexander in the arms of the lovely Asian housekeeper, China. Their daughter, Daisy, grows into a beauty (we're now in 1897) who has an affair with a handsome portuguese named Antonio, who turns out to be married. Naturally, Daisy gets pregnant, but before long comes a wandering New York man, Gideon James, to care for her and son Nicky. Nicky is killed rumrunning during Prohibition, but Daisy and Gideon's other child, Callie, lives to become a painter and environmentalist and the mother of a drunken-out-of-work actor named Nico. The fruit of his union with a snooty eastern woman turns up at the family manse in Mendocino in 1973, calling herself Lavender Sunshine. But she's got the old Beriankov true grit--not to mention a little baby of her own--and Callie lets her stay on. Greber (The Silent Partner, Easy Answers) makes haste boringly through each of the generations in a book not 400 pages long but thickened overwhelmingly with a polyglot patriotism.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Crown