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Morris's fourth novel is Texas gothic through and through, in the style of Galveston (1976) and Keeping Secrets (1979). And like her earlier works, this has more to do with innumerable skeletons cascading out of the closets of several prominent Houston families than with the history of the city from the turn of the century to the present. At a whopping 584 pages, and concerned as the novel is with four generations of variously victimized women, it is for only the most stouthearted of readers. Alvareda Cane starts things off with her story of being repressed and psychologically abused by a tyrannical father who let her believe that she caused her mother's fatal fall down a flight of stairs. Her tone is intriguingly Jane Eyre-ish, but a reader can't quite figure out why she almost spoils the happiness she later finds with the wealthy cotton broker, Neal Gerrard, when she allows herself to be blackmailed by her profligate former suitor, David Leider. Leider goes on to spawn a family of vicious souls, among them son Jordan, who assassinates Alvareda's eldest son, and granddaughter Senta, who marries one Gerrard in order to get back at another for loving her and leaving her. The one exception in the Leider clan is Elzyna, longtime friend of Alvareda; she's a good guy, but as the saying goes, she finishes last, spending her life with an abusive husband, denying herself her one true love, a kindly New Orleans widower and lace importer, Paul Savoy. Her beautiful, wicked daughter Senta speaks her piece in the book's third part--material the novel could surely do without. And finally, the babe we assume is Elzyna's granddaughter, Robin, pops up in part four to unearth the truth of her begetting: she's actually Elzyna's daughter by Paul, and once she discovers it, she can hold her head high and say, ""I think my heritage is something I ought to be proud of."" All in all, a melodramatic, frequently depressing tome.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1986
ISBN: 0595093744
Publisher: Doubleday