HERS THE KINGDOM by Shirley Streshinsky

HERS THE KINGDOM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

There's a sizable parade of ruin and romance in this saga about two California sisters from 1887-1939--but Streshinsky confides it all in an intimate, agreeably uncluttered fashion. The crowded years are narrated by Lena Kerr, crippled since infancy with a twisted back, who follows her vibrant sister Willa--and Willa's husband, go-getting Owen Reade--from their Illinois farm home to the California coast. Owen racks up a mighty fortune in land development, oil, and mines there; the Reades settle down on their Malibu ranch, on unspoiled land where Willa indulges herself often in the study of hawks; two boys are born, Wen and Thad. But the marriage has its stresses--especially since Willa wants more than Owen (a peripatetic, whirlwind money-maker) can give. So, during one of Owen's prolonged absences, Willa has a torrid affair with the temporary foreman, Conner McCord--who'll be arrested for smuggling and sent to prison. And when Willa gives birth to daughter Rose, she guiltily gives the child to Lena to raise--but Rose is accidentally poisoned. The devastated Lena does find, however, reasons for living: her love for Wing Soong, the half-Chinese gardener (a Sun Yat Sen follower who is later a revolutionary in China); and her love for their child Porter--who is publically declared to be the twin of Willa's youngest child Kit. (Owen dies just before these births.) Miseries follow--from Thad's accidental mutilation and insanity to Wen's foul behavior to the constant harassment from those interested in subdividing the ranch (for the building of a public road). There are balls, feasts, travels abroad, and politics., (Activist Porter fights in the Spanish Civil War, learns his true parentage, is last seen as a WW II correspondent). And as Willa fights to the last for the ranch, daughter Kit weds Willa's ill-treated old flame Conner McCord--who'll be the victim of a murder/conspiracy--while narrator Lena is last seen living with Porter's pregnant Chinese wife, serene in her memories of good times and ""lovely summer dreams."" Pleasant--though the tiny type-size may deter some readers.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Putnam