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 All McCoy's strengths--a feisty heroine, a strong regional presence, and much colorful writing--are here, but again the premise and resolution, in this her third novel (Summertime, Walking After Midnight), seem imposed rather than naturally evolving. At 24, along with month-old baby and lover Johnny, runaway Delana Mae Walsh is returning to the family home on the Mississippi River, a place she left seven years ago in a moment of shame and anguish. During the seven years, she has worked as a cook and then as a pilot on the boats that tow the barges up and down the Mississippi. But despite her love for Johnny, an engineer on the boat, and the affection of the crew, Delana Mae has been haunted by the unresolved mysteries in her family: the drowning of a four- year-old sister Sally; her own conception right after the accident; and her doctor father's longtime relationship with his office nurse, whom he married when her own mother, Dovie died. The family home becomes a setting for an updated Showboat as members of the crew, delayed by a mechanical fault, interact in a series of set- pieces, with the Walsh family, including the deeply religious Marcia, dissatisfied with her marriage and yearning to speak in tongues. All ends well as Marcia finds spiritual and sexual joy; Delana Mae learns the truth about her parents; the past is absolved as the baby is baptized at the spot where sister Sally had drowned; and Delana Mae realizes that Johnny is tied to the river, but will come back to visit, until ``the day the river will run dry on him, [and] wash him up to her'' for good. At times McCoy seems to be trying too hard to be the serious novelist, concerned with big issues like incest, religious faith, and the differences between the sexes, and writing as if acclaim were merely a matter of accruing metaphors and similes. But still much to enjoy.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-75065-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992