OPAL ON DRY GROUND by Sandra Scofield

OPAL ON DRY GROUND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scofield's fifth novel, arguably her best since the award-winning Beyond Deserving (1991), has all the humor and plaintive charm of a good country-western song. In fact, with its cast of oft-divorced characters looking for love within the framework of a big, messy, mix-and-match family in Lubbock, the lyrics would come naturally, Texas twang and all. Opal Duffy, the clan's matriarch, is 58 years old and suffers from various ailments, including brittle bones and a swollen heart. Her biggest problem, though, is that she can't take care of everybody as well as she wants to. She blames herself for the fact that her two daughters, Joy and Clancy, are both divorced and lonely; she also feels guilty that her beloved mother has recently died, at home and alone. The one person for whom Opal can't seem to spare much energy or attention is Russell, her affable, younger third husband. Russell owns the house where Opal's brood has come to roost, but he lies low amid the comings and goings of Joy, Clancy, their boyfriends, ex-husbands, and Joy's sulky teenage daughter, Heather. To add to the confusion, there is also a cat, a pet bird, and frequent visits from Russell's own problematic children, as well as his mother, Imogene. Scofield handles this assortment of characters deftly, playing out their various crises with a lighter touch than she has shown in the past. The result is that Opal and her crew seem a vanguard example of whatever ""family"" might mean in the nineties: a tangle of ex-wives, stepmothers, in-laws, et al. kept together by a feisty protagonist possessed of determination and enough love to fill any heart. A memorable family ballad, in tune with the times.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 290pp
Publisher: Villard/Random House