THE HAND I FAN WITH by Tina McElroy Ansa


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 Ansa's second Lena McPherson novel (after Baby of the Family, 1989) is short on plot and long on rhapsodic descriptions of the worshipped Lena. When the Big Flood of '94 hits Mulberry, Georgia, none of Mulberry's residents are surprised when Lena McPherson escapes disaster-free. Of course, no one resents her either; the 45-year- old Lena is beautiful, rich, intelligent, outfitted in couture clothing, and good down to the very bottom of her soul. Her business prowess is legendary, her philanthropy an accepted fact, and her bar/restaurant, The Place, which she inherited from her parents, is the hottest spot around. So the town idolizes her, children and adults alike--but no one can really understand why Lena doesn't ``have a man of her own.'' What they don't know (although they do know that Lena has been marked since birth as ``special'' because she was born with ``a veil''--a piece of fetal membrane--over her face) is that Lena is in love, with a recently appeared spirit named Herman that only she can see or feel. In fact, she's happier than ever. Herman is the man she's been dreaming of: He cooks dinner, waits for her to get home from work, takes evening swims with her. He even encourages her to do more with her blessings--as in the home she opens for needy children and adolescents. Of course, the Herman situation eventually comes to a head--it's hard to live in the real world with a spirit for a lover--but Lena ends up the richer for her yearlong affair, in more ways than one. Ansa writes energetically, colorfully, even evocatively at times (after closing, she can ``almost touch their backs [The Place's regulars] like taps for the draft beer'' as she passes their stools,) but boy-meets-girl is the extent of the story here, and in the end it's just not enough. (First printing of 100,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-47599-3
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


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