THE LIFE (AND DEATH) OF SARAH ELIZABETH HARWOOD by Mary Q. Steele

THE LIFE (AND DEATH) OF SARAH ELIZABETH HARWOOD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Steele applies a light touch to the subject of an eleven-year-old's first true realization that everyone will die. Through the first part of the book, while Daddy complains about his supposedly eccentric family, Sarah, the youngest, is preoccupied with a trivial problem: she has misplaced friend Lois' dead grandmother's girlhood book of pressed flowers. The eccentricities are on the order of head-in-the-clouds sister Corinth getting stuck in a treetop. There is also nutrition-minded brother Duncan, who almost dies in an offstage accident but is soon out of danger. However, his brush sets Sarah off. First she lives in dread of having a fatal disease. Then, after the doctor finds her well, she decides that since she'll die eventually anyway, she might as well get it over with. Unable to raise money for a trip to New York to jump off the Empire State Building, she calmly takes an elevator to the top of the highest local building--and then, terrified by the height, takes the elevator back down. Now her funk deepens. . . until old ""Gram"" in a nursing home (sort of an adopted grandmother to the family) talks with her lightly but honestly about death and living and fear of death. Also with Gram in the nursing home, along with some other books borrowed from Sarah's mother, is the pressed-flower book. This too becomes part of the whole picture of life and death; and so, more incidentally, do passing references to Mother's new plant business and, at the end, Sarah's acquiring a kitten. It's all quite neat and smooth, but neither slick nor heavy-handed. Steele plumbs no depths, but neither does she overload her vehicle nor offend with glib dismissals. Readers will find Sarah easy to know, and they will follow all her thought processes with sympathy and more than casual interest.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1980
Publisher: Greenwillow