SCORPIO’S CHILD by Kezi Matthews


Age Range: 11 - 14
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It’s the summer of 1947 in small-town South Carolina, and 14-year-old Afton has a lot to worry about. Her beloved brother died in the war, and her father, a merchant marine, is rarely home, leaving her alone with her increasingly unhinged mother. The beautiful Jo Helen has come to town, turning the head of John Howard, Afton’s longtime intended beau. The waif-like Pearl Ann, a “sorry-looking child from the cheap, stale-beer side of town,” has attached herself to her, tugging Afton’s unwilling heartstrings. And a mysterious man—an uncle Afton has never heard of—has moved in, disturbing what little peace remains in her household. Matthews (John Riley’s Daughter, 2000) lets Afton tell her story in the present tense, vividly bringing to life the climatological and cultural closeness of a small Southern town, where just about anything becomes grist for the neighborhood gossip mill. Her voice is searingly honest in describing her relationships, particularly when speaking of her mother: “All I know is that the older I get, the wider the distance between us grows, and now, with Bailey here, it has a sharper edge to it.” While voice, setting, and relationships are skillfully presented, the story itself lacks momentum, plodding along until the end, where events rush to resolve themselves in a most melodramatic fashion after Pearl Ann’s mother is found murdered and Uncle Bailey’s terrible secret is found out. And despite the emotional honesty of the bulk of the narrative, the conclusion seeks an easy and unconvincing rapprochement between mother and daughter. Ultimately, superbly realized voice and atmosphere cannot here compensate for flawed plotting. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8126-2890-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Cricket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2001


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