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by Ruth White

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-39912-2
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

A sweet but slight Southern family story.

It's 1956. April Garnet's father abandoned her before her birth 14 years ago; now her mother does the same thing, leaving her with Aunt June in Virginia while she goes to look for work in Florida. Garnet's stated resentment dissolves when her relatives, who'd not previously been aware of her existence, welcome her warmly. She accompanies her aunt to a different church service each Sunday, and gradually it's revealed that her aunt is looking to be cured from terminal cancer. The churches come across as both interchangeable and stereotyped—the speaking in tongues, snake-handling and even faith healing are presented more in the nature of carnival sideshows than as stemming from any actual religious belief. How Garnet feels toward God is never revealed. Except for her growing interest in a young preacher, Silver, her emotional tone remains flaccid, and she changes not a whit from start to finish. White's first-person narration and her comfortable dialogue are so smooth that it's easy to overlook the lack of action, but this is far from her strongest effort. The improbable happily-ever-after ending will appeal to children whose parents are separated.

Homey and bland as a bowl of grits without gravy. (Historical fiction. 10-14)