Finding Signs

Sharlene Baker, Author
Sharlene Baker, Author Alfred A. Knopf $18.95 (241p) ISBN 978-0-394-57912-2
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
This humorous novel set in the low-rent 1970s chronicles the journeys of young Brenda Bradshaw, who finds her life on the road endlessly romantic, albeit occasionally dangerous and gritty. She carries in her backpack a letter from Al, her first love, begging her to visit him now that he's finally graduated from law school and is ``ready to start living again.'' But on the way from San Diego to Al in Spokane, she is sidetracked--led to an Arizona apple ranch, then to Cape Cod by a nightmarish incident involving a poinsettia delivery truck. En route she meets a odd assortment of characters, including a bookie with an Oedipus complex, a stingy drug dealer, an AWOL Marine who wants only to go home to mother. Brenda's early life has shaped her urge to ramble: she is reacting to her father's nomadic career in the Air Force, her mother's chronic eccentricity. The novel acquires depth when we meet her brother Will, whose breakdown after duty in Vietnam takes the form of listening obsessively to Crystal Gayle. In helping him, Brenda begins to wonder what to make of herself. Is the quest for Al worthwhile? Is she traveling because she likes to or because she's afraid of commitment? The answers are satisfyingly complex in this richly enjoyable debut marked by a distinctive comic flair. (Apr.)
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