LAST QUADRANT by Meira Chand
Kirkus Star


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The author of the acute The Gossamer Fly here takes a familiar, often-sentimentalized theme--arid lives rejuvenated through a shared catastrophe--and gives it bright new strength and color. The ""last quadrant"" is, in fact, the horrifying climax of a monster storm that's ripping across Japan--to the coastal city of Kobe, where 60-ish Englishwoman Dr. Eva Kraig supervises a mission home for abandoned, abused, mainly half-breed children. Among those whose lives will be changed (or ended) by the storm: Eva's adopted daughter Akiko, whose real mother Kyo, pregnant by an American soldier, left the baby at the mission and entered a life of bars and brothels; Daniel, Eva's visiting American nephew, guilt-ridden over causing a vehicular death; Arthur Wilcox, an elderly survivor of the old British colony, fearful of dying alone and unloved; silly, frenziedly do-gooding Geraldine Cooper and money-man husband Nate, who live in a grand, all-stone, cliff-side mansion; senile Maud Bingham, Geraldine's mother, deep in her dream of old days and old ways; nun Elaine, her faith in ashes, hating the times, the place, and the children; and the children themselves, doomed, as half-breeds, to the Japanese view of them as ""an unthinkable adulteration."" Before the coming of the storm Kyo, battered by drink and misuse, will return after 20 years to demand her daughter. And also heightening the tension is the arrival of ""incorrigible"" teenager Kenichi--alone, withdrawn, angry. But then comes the storm. . . and what a storm it is! A variegated group is slammed together at the orphanage, including ill Kyo and stranded Wilcox. The screaming, splintering terror heightens--until children and adults, driven to the last hiding place, face ""the great wave of sound"" which will pulverize their shelter. Then, led by Wilcox, racing against time and viscous mud slides, they finally reach the impregnable Cooper house of stone. And there's a final night that begins with shaky gaiety (piano music, warmth, food), continues through personal epiphanies, but ends with the stunning fury of a cleansing, killing tidal wave--""a black shelf of water hovering and trembling."" An immensely appealing tale with knowledgeable landscapes, delightful kids. . . and a typhoon so howlingly awful that you may want to read this in a storm cellar.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/Houghton Mifflin