Pawpaw Patch

Janice Daugharty, Author
Janice Daugharty, Author HarperCollins Publishers $22 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-017379-1
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-06-092798-1
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Pawpaws (fruit of the papaya tree) may be described as mature, pulpy, fleshy, luscious, steeped, savory and done to a turn. Daugharty's (Necessary Life; Dark of the Moon) new novel, about the power of secrets shared and secrets kept, is all of the above and more. Rumor and gossip are society's sum and substance in this tale of Betty Jean Foster, 40, who changes her name to Chanell, ""for a little class,"" before setting up shop as a beautician in the small town of Cornerville, Ga. Her beauty parlor quickly becomes a ""a meeting place for women to air their unholy vanities, to let their hair down."" But when someone spreads a rumor about her Creole blood, Chanell's friends, her customers, drop out of sight. She stops at nothing--even anointing herself with a little sardine oil and soot--to regain her life. ""It's how you hold up under the weight of what comes down on you,"" she says. Daugharty invests her Southern setting with a richly textured, visceral reality. The plot sags at times, but readers' confidence that they're in the hands of a writer who knows her subject, as well as her craft, never does. Author tour. (Apr.)
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