PATCHWORK by Karen Osborn


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 A carefully crafted first novel by poet Osborn that touches in on the lives of three sisters raised in a dusty South Carolina milltown. They are Rose, Lily, and June, daughters of a dirt-poor cotton farmer, but three very different shoots from the same vine. Salt-of-the-earth Rose marries mill-worker Edward and leads a lean but very steady life, bearing three children and cleaving to the church as the troubles of even the most conscientiously lived life threaten to drag her down. Lily devotes herself to getting what she wants, which is chiefly sex, though personal license doesn't set her free since she can't keep herself from bad-seed Charles, her first husband, even after she divorces him and marries mill-boss Forrest. And poor June, who weds the town banker, gets institutionalized after attempting infanticide; her daughter, Sylvie, is taken in by Rose and develops a passionate, quasi-incestuous attachment to Rose's son, Benjy. The years shuttle by, leaving all three sisters together in old age, with widowed Rose working at the mill again, Lily watching soaps and having a hard time remembering to keep her clothes on, and June, released from the asylum, still living in a dream world. It's only Sylvie who manages to make her way out of the family tangle, marrying happily and working as a free-lance writer in San Francisco. Osborn creates a beguiling array of female voices here, and a very authentic sense of time and place. But her story is essentially undramatic, which is what keeps it from achieving the cathartic resonance of the tonally similar novels of Alice Walker.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-15-171292-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991


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