WHAT TIME OF NIGHT IS IT? by Mary Stolz

WHAT TIME OF NIGHT IS IT?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

About halfway through this similarly deliberate sequel to Go and Catch a Flying Fish (1979), 13-year-old Taylor sees a mullet leap and recalls a definition of joy: ""It said that contentment is a solid, happiness is a liquid, and joy is a gas."" By this or any other scheme, Stolz' writing is not a gas. These further trials of the Reddich family after mother Junie leaves home are closer to slow pouring. Now, with four-year-old BJ more than Taylor and middle brother Jem can handle, father Tony calls his mother down from New England to help. Her fanatic housekeeping standards and unreasonable tight rein, even her bland, instant-food cooking (she won't eat theirs) are hard on Taylor, who's been raised in a freer manner. The friction between the two--until Junie stages an unexpected, unrepentant return--is aptly, intensely detailed from raging, resentful Taylor's viewpoint. Meanwhile, in counterpoint, Taylor witnesses a crisis at the Howards--friend Sandy's far more horrible family--when older sister Amanda attempts suicide. The admired Stolz virtues are again in evidence: believable, well-defined characters; a thoughtful heroine trying hard to make sense of the world; a clear, ever-present Florida background. Best of all, Stolz respects Taylor and her thoughts, which might account for some of her success. Taylor's musings about families, nature, starting over, and our self-destructive species strike one as just what a thoughtful person her age might be thinking. But they are also, like the variously typical characters, thoroughly predictable, offering no quickening glimpses of the subject and revealing no particular quirk or quality in Taylor beyond a general intelligent decency. But no doubt we should be thankful for what Stolz offers: texture, authenticity, an observant closeup of imperfect families, and that serious respect.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row