SOPHIE'S HOUSE OF CARDS by Sharon Oard Warner


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A family at a crossroads reconfigures itself in Warner’s (English/University of New Mexico) second novel (Deep in the Heart, 2001, etc.).

51-year-old Peggy Granger is an ex-hippie who used to read tarot cards in exchange for food, shelter and pocket money. Her cards have been stored away, untouched for years, until her 16-year-old daughter, Sophie, finds them and asks her to do a reading. Ten cards, laid out in the form of a Celtic cross, provide the titles and openings of each chapter, a clever narrative structure that links the past, present and future of this family whose stability is as fragile as a house of cards. The cards reveal their present crisis—Sophie is pregnant and has been keeping this secret for weeks—but that isn’t the only problem befalling the Granger family. Peggy’s boutique in Albuquerque’s Old Town is failing, her husband, Jack, has shut down their sex life after a recent heart attack, and their 12-year-old son, Ian, is being bullied at school, mostly by “Hispanic boys who have taken a dislike to him on account of his towhead and ivory complexion.” To make matters worse, as Sophie delays making any decisions about her pregnancy, a visitor from Peggy’s past insinuates herself into the family in more ways than one. Despite their importance to the structure of the book, the tarot cards don’t show up much in the actual story, a shame because the descriptions of the symbolic meanings of the cards are interesting in ways that these characters are not. The cards require a longer gaze to really understand them, but Warner abandons the subtext of the cards, instead relying on the obvious tropes of a teenage pregnancy drama—a girl “recklessly in favor of her own happiness” forced to make unselfish choices, her family coming to terms with her decisions as they evaluate their own lives, and a stranger who turns up with an offer that makes it all so much easier than it should be.

A well-written but predictable novel with unfulfilled New-Age potential.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8263-3077-2
Page count: 360pp
Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2014


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