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A stiff saga of righteousness overcoming a bad seed.

Skin color fuels sibling rivalries in this family melodrama.

Vernon and Verlene Mays, a multiracial couple in DeKalb, Texas, pass on a rainbow of complexions to their four children. Family discord ensues as their eldest daughter Verna, a light-skinned beauty, conceives an intense loathing for her darker, chubbier sister Viola Grace for no clear reason aside from Viola Grace’s unfashionable looks, studiousness and angelic disposition. Verna’s meanness blossoms in high school; she cuts classes, hangs with bad girls and sighs and rolls her eyes at everything her family does. Sounds pretty typical for a teenager, but Verlene, a woman with strict Christian values, is not one to brook a jot of rebelliousness in a child and packs her daughter off to a church boarding school. Verna runs away, taking with her the story’s sole element of trouble and complexity; with her off the stage for many chapters, the novel becomes a staid chronicle of happiness and achievement. Viola does brilliantly in college and medical school and acquires an upstanding surgeon boyfriend; her brother Vernon, Jr. and sister Vernice are also paragons. Verna-less, the family gathers for joyous yuletide celebrations (primly devoid of the “pagan symbolism” of the Christmas tree) where they toast their successes and give thanks to God before rushing out to buy new Bibles. “ ‘God is good all the time, and everything is just fine,’ ” Viola Grace observes in a fitting summary of most of the narrative. It’s a relief when the prodigal Verna finally resurfaces, beaten unconscious, with years of hard living under her belt; the tearful reunions have hardly subsided when a new rivalry develops over Verna’s neglected children, whom Viola Grace has taken in. Verna is an interesting character—bruised, often nasty, aching over her estrangement from her censorious family. Unfortunately, the author disapproves of her as strongly as the other characters do; the story is so intent on deploring Verna and applauding her perfect siblings that we never learn what makes her tick.

A stiff saga of righteousness overcoming a bad seed.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4415-8934-7

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2010

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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