SICK AND FULL OF BURNING by Kelly Cherry
Kirkus Star

SICK AND FULL OF BURNING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The title is from Robert Lowell -- a poem which Mary ""Tennessee"" Settleworth teaches to Cameron Carlisle, the youngster she comes to tutor during the year when Tennessee is studying at Mount Sinai en route to becoming a gynecologist and living with Cammie, her ""retarded rock freak"" with a gimpy leg (the accident which took the life of her father) and with her mother Lulu who is really out of it -- blowing pot and popping pills. Before it's all over you will see how diversely appropriate the words are. Settleworth is appealing enough to make any housewife feel like a frump -- even if she hasn't any outlet for her affections except Cammie (unless you count Bernie that was; a married doctor who would like to be; or Adrien who might become more -- he's writing poetry out of town). Tennessee's obviously a case of youth not being wasted on the young but the young just wasting away -- in between her shrink and her Lib Group (these are fantastically funny scenes) and the vibrator which Willa Mae, Lulu's thoughtful black maid, donates. As for Kelly Cherry, she applies a style as shiny and sharp as a curette to all this offhand experience until toward the end when, what with Lulu's ""semiconscious arson,"" the book takes a different route -- a shattering one except for Tennessee's innate faith and her love for Cammie which gives a strength to the novel you've been so charmingly misled into not taking too seriously. . . . Say your beads -- even if they're only love beads -- and certainly a great many people should take to this other Jane. A just about perfect first novel -- bright, sassy, sad and with talent, well, to burn.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1974
Publisher: Viking