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 Skinner's second novel, which picks up where Old Jim Canaan (1990) leaves off, tells the genuine, tender, and wise tale of young Jim Canaan's family in the voice of his daughter, whose lazy eye encourages a unique vision of the world. Twelve-year-old Molly Flanagan lives in a sort of netherworld. She's overshadowed by her handsome, bright, and talented older brother, Nat, who can play the piano by ear, is a natural-born actor, gets away with swearing in front of his parents, and is confident and at ease with himself. She's pulled in two different directions by family matriarchs: Catholic Grandmother Byrd, on her father's side, believes in filling Molly with ``the great drama and mystery'' of her faith, while her mother's mother, Baptist Grandmother Willie, works to save Molly from a religion ``so bedeviled...[that it's] governed by an Italian posing as Christ on earth.'' She lives in a house where secrets are kept from her. No one reveals that her grandfather committed suicide years ago, that her mother has gotten pregnant, or that she subsequently loses the baby. Even Molly's own eyes mislead her, causing her to see two different things at once (like her physical therapist's shoes, which, Molly notes with interest even as she's supposed to focus on her therapist's nose, always match her outfit). But while Skinner makes it obvious that Molly's never going to be more than a workhorse on the piano, never going to win people over like her brother does, never going to unravel the confusing tapestry of organized religion, she also manages to translate Molly's peculiar vision into a powerful new way of seeing so that this otherwise average girl uncovers potent truths (like her brother's love for a beautiful and abused schoolmate). Of course, when her father finally gathers the funds for an operation to ``correct'' the errant eye, reader's sympathize with Molly's reluctance to give up her special gift. Opulent detail cloaked in whispered prose makes Skinner's tale as subtly artless as Molly's own self-discovery.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56512-026-4
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1994