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One of Hamilton's deeply felt family stories, this contains a ghost, a time trip, a retarded brother's death, a case of child abuse, and a largely absent mother who turns up with a boyfriend and a car her children never knew of--but this is all integrated into a fully imagined novel that conforms to none of the obvious YA patterns such components would suggest. Brother Rush, the ghost, appears in the first paragraph. Dressed in a suit "good enough for a funeral or a wedding," he's "the stone finest dude Tree had ever seen in her short life of going-on fifteen years." Soon the ghost is transporting Tree into scenes involving himself, a young woman, and the woman's two children--the baby girl she dotes on and the boy, a little older, whom she ties to the bedpost and whips when annoyed. And Tree comes to realize that the baby is herself, Brother is her uncle who died young, the "poor sad little boy" is her older teenage brother Dab, whom she lives with and loves, and Viola, the woman, is her mother (Tree calls her Muh Vy, or M'Vy), who works as a practical nurse and comes home only on Saturdays to stock the pantry and say hello. Now Dab is sick and in pain, and Tree is worried. When M'Vy does show up, followed by her kind, solicitous boyfriend Silversmith (this too is short for his real full name), they rush Dab to the hospital where Vy, now all concern, reveals that he has porphyria, the disease that took her three brothers. This indelible scene is lit as if by the hospital's harsh glare--with Vy calling for a doctor and explaining Dab's case to the nurse (who is "crisp, like a cold head of lettuce"), the nurse insisting that forms must be filled out before a doctor or stretcher can be called, and Silversmith left to stand through it all with the unconscious Dab in his arms. When Dab dies a few days later, Tree goes a little berserk, tearing around the apartment and lashing out at her mother--but appeased by the fine funeral Vy provides--before settling down to accept what will undoubtedly be an easier life. Like other Hamilton novels this has its rough edges, but they are outweighed here by the blazing scenes, the intensity of Tree's feelings, the glimpses of Dab through her eyes, and the rounded characterization of Vy.
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0380651939
Page count: 228pp
Publisher: Philomel
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1982


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