REAR-VIEW MIRRORS by Paul Fleischman


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Olivia Tate, newly graduated from high school, returns to her late father's house in New Hampshire to complete another rite of passage in this slight novel. The structure of the book is a 70-mile bicycle ride over the same route her father took as a test of will. Seeking to repeat her father's feat, Livvy goes back in memory to the previous summer when she and her father met for the first time since he abandoned the baby Olivia and her mother. He was a proudly isolationist New Englander, conservative in his views and contemptuous of her professor mother. He wrote mysteries, which Olivia has made a point never to read. Her parents are opposites; Fleischman never hints at the attraction which produced Olivia. Instead, he describes a summer of sniping during which each hesitantly reaches out to the other to find a tentative rapprochement. As Olivia ends her ride, the resolution is confirmed: she has found a way to meld both heritages into her life. The difference in the parents are so complete as to be schematic; Olivia's resolution of them ties up the ends too tidily. Olivia does have a wryly self-conscious voice which makes her entertaining. Her father, given to too many sarcastic proclamations, is less so. Other characters are not well limned; the reader, with the task of figuring out which summer is which, may not care. There is suspense as to whether Olivia will finish her bicycle trip, and a lovely turn of phrase which sticks in the memory. These are the book's virtues, but it's as tidy as a sampler and about as interesting.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0060218665
Page count: 117pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1986


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