BRIGHT ANGEL TIME by Martha McPhee

BRIGHT ANGEL TIME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Yet another coming-of-age debut novel, this one dragging on a bit as it evokes the '60s-style wanderings of a divorced housewife and her three unhappy daughters. Until 1969, eight-year-old Kate lived in perfect contentment in a white house in rural New Jersey with her two older sisters, her geologist father, and her beautiful blond mother, a housewife named Eve. Unfortunately, that was the year that Dad elected to run off with his lover, and Eve, after a depression that kept her in bed for months, fell in love with an itinerant Gestalt therapist named Anton and allowed him to uproot their lives. Yearning to experience life truly in a way her anal-retentive husband never had, Eve follows Anton to the Esalen center in California. The couple gather up Eve's three well-brought-up daughters, put them in a camper with Anton's five hippie kids, and take off for a tour of the American West. The new, extended family wanders aimlessly through deserts and semi-abandoned towns, sneaking into unoccupied motel rooms for showers, dropping in on Indian settlements and millionaires' resorts, and absorbing various hitchhikers into their fold, while the children bicker and the adults preach free love along the way. Meanwhile, Kate tries to accustom herself to the loss of her father and happy former life, working hard (but often failing) to see the good in Anton's motherless children and to forgive her own newly liberated mom. Eve's reckless devotion to Anton has its consequences--one daughter becomes deathly ill, another runs away, and Kate herself becomes a religious fanatic for a while--and yet Eve's decision to return home at last seems motivated more by fatigue than by lessons learned, and it's unclear who, if anyone, has really come of age. McPhee's story holds interest, but much like its protagonists, it tends to wander without direction, in the end failing to provide much of a catharsis.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45008-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997




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