IOU'S by Ouida Sebestyen


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Parent-child relationships appear to be a Sebestyen preoccupation, and this latest heart-sounding novel is about nothing but the particularly close relationship between Stowe, 13, and his brave, wise, loving, financially-strapped mother. Annie has been estranged from her father since her marriage and abandoned by her husband since Stowe's early childhood, and she rinds it hard to get by on what she earns from taking in children for daycare and selling the odd crib quilt. Stowe, for his part, is determined not to hurt her as his father and grandfather have, and finds it hard not to behave in all situations as he knows she would wish him to: ""What else could he do when what she said made sense?"" he asks himself when his more irresponsible friend protests. More like a couple than a mother and child, the two discuss their relationship, quarrel maturely, express their mutual trust and affection, do a jaunty little softshoe step together on a dusty road, and, on a seesaw with ""their weight balancing Finally after years of being unequal,"" daydream playfully about their imagined future house in the country. He does decide to keep from her his dying grandfather's wish, relayed through a cousin's phone call, to see Stowe: As Annie wasn't mentioned, he won't go either. Finally, though, Annie decides on her own to make the journey, and when she and Stowe arrive too late she regrets not having reached out earlier. And Stowe, as always, comes to see the loss her way. Besides prompting Stowe to consider getting in touch with his own father and to speculate in passing about his own future status as a father, a grandfather, and a funeral subject, the major outcome of the experience is to strengthen the bond between Stowe and Annie, after only a token challenge in the form of a concerned old aunt who questions Annie's exclusive emotional investment in Stowe. But it's hard not to share the aunt's concern, and hard not to find Annie and Stowe a little cloying and idealized in a slightly sickly way--though Sebestyen unquestionably writes with sensitivity and shading and seems to get down into Stowe's feelings and the pair's interactions.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown