GENTLEHANDS by M. E. Kerr

GENTLEHANDS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In order to impress beautiful, rich Skye Pennington, 16-year-old Buddy, a policeman's son, takes her to visit his grandfather--a cultivated, gentle, widely traveled German, divorced when Buddy's mother was a baby and thus a virtual stranger to both Buddy and his mother (who nevertheless hates her father for a snob). In similar spirit both Buddy's parents are fiercely opposed to his dating Skye, because she is ""not of our class"" and is giving Buddy ""hotsy-totsy,"" not to say expensive, habits. But Buddy defies them, spending more and more time at the Penningtons, where, as he expounds at the kitchen table, ""they have a marble staircase and this butler named Peacock. . . these little dogs called Papillon, which means butterfly in French. . . they go to Europe and all that stuff."" They also have DeLucca, a reporter guest who is tracking his Italian-Jewish cousin's Auschwitz murderer, and who embarrasses Skye and her friends with the story when they are telling anti-Semitic jokes. Buddy also spends more and more time at his grandfather's, where he is regaled with mellow wisdom on everything from love and (he'll remember) responsibility to Renaissance art and how to pour wine; and when things get too hot at home he moves in with the older man, now a close and loving friend. Then DeLucca springs. Buddy's grandfather is the wanted Nazi and the papers are full of his atrocities. It can't be true. . . but it is. Readers will be as shaken as Buddy, if only because till then all the characters are so near to stereotypes that any switch at all is doubly unexpected. Too much? But in a way, the discrepancy between Kerr's earlier caricatures and simplistic issues and the later, more powerful revelation is appropriate to the business of unmasking an opera-and-animal-loving Nazi. And there is no question that Kerr comes through with a real stunner that will leave you reeling with Buddy--and feeling for him through his first rude collision with the world beyond appearances.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0064470679
Publisher: Harper & Row