IN DARK WATER by Mermer Blakeslee


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Blakeslee’s second (after Same Blood, 1989) offers a bittersweet account of a family in 1958 upstate New York and the toll that serious trouble takes on their ten-year-old daughter,. The story begins with Eudora Buell squeezing the big toe of her older brother David, recently killed in a motorcycle accident. This single tragic event gives impetus to the sad decline of the once happy family—Eudora’s beautifully wistful mother Florence becomes increasingly unstable, her father devotes all his energy to maintaining his wife’s sanity, and she herself is left with only the memories (unmentionable because they—re sure to be misunderstood) of a big brother who was the world to her. Riding and helping out at the local stable gives some respite from the turmoil at home, but when the stable shuts down, Eudora must wait with her mother, who becomes verbally and physically abusive, forbidding Eudora to leave her sight for long. Enamored with the free-rambling character on the TV show Shane, Eudora runs away from home to a local farm where, with the permission of her father (Florence by this time has been institutionalized), Eudora lives out an idyllic country summer with the family she unofficially adopts. The dependable and loving Beulah, her husband Tappen, and old Pops reinstill a sense of independence in Eudora, and living as the newly christened Dorrie Shane, she begins to recover. A series of misunderstandings sends her to a home for troubled and abandoned children where further crossed signals arouse suspicions that she has been sexually assaulted. A rather frightening gynecological exam drives her into a catatonic state, not unlike her mother’s. The only thing that can save either Eudora or Florence is their reconciliation and their ability to come to terms with David’s death. Written with a fine ear for the voice of a child, Blakeslee builds a lovely portrait and a memorable character in Eudora Buell.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-345-41777-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1998