JANUARY 1905

Katharine Boling, Author
Katharine Boling, Author . Harcourt $16 (170p) ISBN 978-0-15-205119-8
Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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An elegant structure and carefully observed details of textile mill village life at the turn of the 20th century mark this first novel about twin 10-year-old girls. "I am full of hate," begins Pauline, "and that, I know, is wicked." She, like her parents and older brother, works in a cotton mill from "six until noon, from one until six." Her twin, Arlene, born with a deformed foot, begins the second chapter with the exact wording as her sister's. She must keep house, scrub the laundry and bring dinner in tin pails to the mill at noon. Each sister envies the other: Pauline believes Arlene is "the favored one" who leads an idle life. Arlene begrudges Pauline's "real" job and the company of girls her age. Boling (New Year Be Coming ), who died in 2002, uses the sisters' alternating first-person, present-tense narratives to let readers know, before the twins do, how wrong each girl is about the other's lot. At the mill, the constant threat of injury hangs in the air like the lint thrown off by the machines, and a predatory foreman shadows Pauline's day. The author brings to light the earthy and exhausting elements of daily life during this era (e.g., Arlene is called upon to help deliver a baby). Readers may tire of Pauline's whining and, given the intensity of the sisters' rift when the story opens, their wound heals a little too easily. But the conclusion satisfies, and parents who can't get their kids to do chores could use this book as a corrective. Ages 10-up. (May)

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