LITTLE PEG by Kevin Mellvoy


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The death of a beloved younger brother looms large here, just as it did in McIlvoy's first novel, The Fifth Station (1988), but this time the theme is Vietnam and the focus is on one woman who waited at home--and has been paying the price ever since. Peg O'Crerieh Aigley lives in Everview, a "residential treatment center" for people with mental problems. In theory, she teaches creative writing to adult students. But in practice, when her students' stories are handed in, Peg rewrites each one until it is a chapter from the story of her own life--a story that begins with memories of childhood games played with her brother Ben, moves on to adolescent groping with awkward James Aigley, and pivots, finally, on the fact that soon after Peg married James, he returned safely from the war, but her brother Ben did not. In the more than 15 years that have since passed, Peg has lived only intermittently with James and their daughter Molly, returning again and again to the security of Everview, where she rooms with her best friend, an older woman named Francis, and is tended to by a staff of benign, supportive characters. In fact, Everview's gently wacky atmosphere, along with Francis's self-conscious eccentricity--she insists that her name be spelled with an "i" instead of an "e" in order "to remind herself what a difference that one vowel makes"--are the least realized portions of the book. As Peg works out a truce with the real world, the truths that propel her are not gleaned from sessions with her analyst. They lie in the student stories that she has reworked--the images of family life, of love and loss that give this novel its strength. Slightly offbeat and slightly off the mark, but, overall, plenty of firepower about the lasting legacy of a war.

ISBN: 689-12107-5
Publisher: Atheneum
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