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 Set in the Northwest in the mid-1960s, this disappointing debut novel by actress Tilly chronicles an abusive family from the point of view of one of the daughters. Anna, the second oldest of four children, is five years old when her harried mother, Jean, unwisely marries Richard Smith. He quickly brings his three children from another marriage for Jean to take care of; the growing family must struggle to stay out of poverty as, predictably, boorish Richard stops working and starts drinking. From there he sinks into a sexually abusive relationship with the girls, culminating in repeated rapes of Susan, Anna's older sister. This twisted situation is unconvincingly conveyed, right down to Jean's willful ignoring of her husband's continuing attacks on Susan. The day-to-day details of Anna's life overwhelm the fragile plot; instead of deepening our knowledge of her character, they only numb us to the real pain of the novel--the horror of abuse and deception. Tilly strives for the innocent yet knowing tone of a young girl, but Anna's voice is merely tiresome with its affected countryisms and deliberately cutesy grammatical errors. This, coupled with a vocabulary too advanced for her age (at five she uses words like ``nutrients'' and ``underbidding''), makes her a completely unreliable narrator. Neither Anna's uneven journey to a sense of self nor the painful story of a self-destructive family are successfully realized in this claustrophobic and unsurprising novel.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1994
ISBN: 0-525-93778-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dutton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994