ALICE by Sara Flanigan


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Like Flanigan's first novel (Sudie, 1985)--and set in very nearly the same time and place: a syrupy, though Finally endearing, tale of a young Southern girl who fights to right a wrong. The narrator is 13-year-old Ellie Perkins, who lives, in the late 30's, on a rundown farm near the little town of Bolton, Georgia. She has a beloved older brother, Sammy, but her father, Jack, has been hitting the bottle pretty hard since her mother died of diphtheria. At least, though, they're not like those ""trashy"" Guthries up on the hill, who appear to keep a strange animal penned in a shed near the front porch--except that the ""animal"" turns out to be a woebegone teen-age girl named Alice, who is an epileptic: being an ignorant redneck, her father thinks her ""fits"" bring disgrace on the family. Ellie befriends the girl (who is quite deaf and speaks like a two-year-old: ""I cold mmmm""); gradually draws her out of her shell; and eventually tells Sammy, Jack, and her kindly aunt Bessie about her. Together they convince Alice's mother to let the blossoming Alice move into Ellie's place, get a hearing aid, and begin tutoring--all of which happens only after Mrs. Guthrie brains and cripples mean Mr. Guthrie when he comes after her during a drinking bout. All ends sunnily, however, with Jack Perkins giving up drink, a radiant Alice in love with Sammy, and Ellie smiling at a job well done. Despite weirdly gushy down-in-the-holler writing (""Right in them big liquid, and wise, dark eyes was the story of Life""), and a plot that flirts with bathos all the way through, then: an effective tale in spite of itself, genuine, ingenuous, and convincing--although perhaps best suited to a YA market.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's