THE STARLITE DRIVE-IN by Marjorie Reynolds


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 The discovery of a skeleton evokes memories of a 1950s summer roiled by passions, innocent and profane, and redeemed by abiding loyalties. When 49-year-old Callie Anne learns that human bones have been found on the site of the old Starlite Drive-in, she can't follow her aunt's advice to ``leave it be.'' Instead, she drives to the site, recognizes objects buried with the body, and slips one of them into her purse. She isn't being ghoulish--the object in question is an artifact of her past, taking her back to 1956 and the summer when the drifter Charlie Memphis came into her family's life. Callie Anne, an only child, lived then with her mother Teal and father Claude on the grounds of the drive-in theater Claude managed. Back then, Teal, unnerved by Claude's bullying and constant criticism, hasn't left the house for five years, and Claude himself, feeling trapped in his job and the small Indiana town they live in, dreams only of escape. And so the arrival of handsome Charlie Memphis, whom Claude takes on to help with maintenance, heats up an already tense situation. The 13-year-old Callie Anne, who watches movies nightly with Claude, decides that she's in love with Charlie, and Teal--a gentle and loving woman--is also smitten. Then Callie Anne, piecing disparate information and hearsay together with reports of stolen money, concludes that Charlie is a convicted murderer. As Claude's jealousy increases, Callie Anne's apprehensions mount, barely relieved by her first romance with teenage ticket-taker Virgil. Matters come to their inevitable head when Charlie disappears after Callie Anne has witnessed a fight between him and her father, and Teal, confronted by Claude, moves out briefly. Now, years later, Callie Anne finally discovers Charlie's fate, but Teal, who loyally came back to Claude, can't accept what those bones mean. A sweetly unpretentious tale of a defining summer that taught a young girl too much about love and life. An accomplished debut.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-688-15389-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997