SONG OF THE PEARL by Ruth Nichols


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Is there hope after death? Not only hope, it seems, but hunger, grief, loneliness, good and ill health, and above all, change and growth. All of these are experienced (and rather bombastically expressed) by Margaret when she dies at seventeen--consumed, it seems, by hatred for an uncle who raped her after years of mutual ""desire."" In heaven she ""lives"" for a while with a Chinese clan whose existence there--slaves, family disputes, and all--is just like it was on earth. Realizing ""that death, like life, is for learning,"" Margaret recalls in bits her previous lives on earth and, with the help of an enigmatic Paul (who, it turns out, has been her husband in the best of them), does learn to let go of the hatred that had obsessed her not only as Margaret but, earlier, as housewife Elizabeth, slave girl Zawumatec, and the boy Tirigare. And so a story that begins with death ends in rebirth and the promise that Paul and Margaret will again meet and marry and live happily. . . if not ever after, then again and again. (But despite the ""lover's kiss"" at the end, Paul never fleshes out from the ""guardian angel"" he seems at first.) If you can respond to her view of death as an interlude of emotional housekeeping between lives you might, with Margaret, find Nichols' gradual revelation of the pattern of reincarnation illuminating. But first you'll have to suffer with Margaret through half a book of action suspended and emotion abstracted--where power sears and surges, love exalts, grief abates, and even garments, like the prose, ""grow sodden.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum