Teenager grows up fast in small Florida town—and then the plot really takes off in Hart’s second outing (after Waterwoman, 2002).
In expressive prose that avoids “southern fiction” preciousness, Hart brings us Dory Camber, daughter of Owen, hardware-store owner in sleepy Ordinary Springs. Dory’s earliest memories are fraught with questions. Where did her mother, Vera, disappear with that suitcase after telling toddler Dory a bedtime story? Why did her father bury her mother’s clothes? Why are her parents’ former best friends, the McMillans, now standoffish? Why is her father so distant? Dory works as her father’s housekeeper and helper at the store, and she assumes she’s first in his secretive heart—until the Yankee city-slicker Fitzgeralds move in across the street. Dory realizes with horror that her father, oblivious to the blandishments of every other female in town, is falling hard for the Capri-clad, spike-heeled, Dali-loving Myra Fitzgerald, whose WWII vet husband, Frank, is bedridden. While Owen and Myra are otherwise occupied in another room, Dory unwittingly becomes an accessory to Frank’s suicide. And then, when her father announces that he’s to marry Myra, Dory loses her already tenuous grip on self-restraint and, the night of her 16th birthday, has an assignation with childhood friend Pearce McMillan under a carnival truck, empties the cash register at Owen’s store, and tries to run away, only to be apprehended by the sheriff, who has zeroed in on her role in Frank’s death. From there, it’s on to reform school, escape (her expertise with hardware serves Dory well), a stint at a roadside diner and tourist trap, the birth of daughter Rose, an affair with a half-Seminole ’gator trapper, and a newfound determination to return to Ordinary Springs for a vigorous spring-cleaning of her father’s house and its resident demons.
Unerring eye for 1950s detail lifts this soap-operatic story above the ordinary, even if the plot springs are a bit too visible.