In the Heart of the Whole World

John Rolfe Gardiner, Author
John Rolfe Gardiner, Author Alfred A. Knopf $17.95 (239p) ISBN 978-0-394-56901-7
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
Elegantly written, this funny, poignant gem of a book presents the first-person narrative of Ray Sykes, a Virginia high school teacher obsessed with one of his pupils, Sonia Pless. She is his daughter, though she doesn't know itthe product of his illicit union with a female student 15 years earlier. Proud, plucky Sonia is a malcontent, an almost-flunking pill-popper, a plagiarizer. Her mother and her step-father (whom she thinks is her real father) fight constantly. She joins a secret sex club and gets mixed up with a shady ``mall artist,'' a suburban Michelangelo who splashes her nude torso on the Whole World Mall's ceiling. Sykes wants to steer his daughter right, yet he's shacked-up with Lauranette, a local radio celeb much younger than himself, and his concern borders on voyeurism. Nothing is re solved at the bittersweet end of this troubling, utterly convincing novel by the author of The Great Dream From Heaven , but the main characters have grown wiser. Sykes's quest to connect with his runaway daughter is moving and haunting. (September)
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