Singing Songs

Meg Tilly, Author
Meg Tilly, Author Dutton Books $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-93778-4
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-452-27165-4
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-929636-62-7
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Sometimes creativity blesses twice: Tilly, an actress best known for her portrayal of Chloe, the luminous young lover of the recent suicide in The Big Chill , has written an impressive first novel. Fashioned in short, cinematic vignettes, the story is related from Anna's bravely innocent point of view, which expands as she grows from a preschooler to a preteen. Anna lives with her large family in a variety of squalid locations, finally settling on an island in the Northwest. Her Radcliffe-educated mother, deserted by her well-to-do husband, has become a careless slut; she has married an older man who turns out to be a ``layabout,'' a child-beater and -molester. Anna's many siblings, blood and step, try to make it against these terrible odds, while Anna herself struggles unsuccessfully to cushion them from her stepfather's brutality and lechery, fiercely tries to protect herself from a number of sexual assaults and attempts to wrest some comfort from her overwrought mother. The young girl finds solace in the natural world: in a pet fawn who briefly lives in the bathroom and in baby owls who ride her shoulders. She revels in having her own room (a pantry closet) and proudly learns to shoplift. In retaining Anna's artless and natural voice, Tilly gives her credibility. Anna's clear-eyed perspective, generous nature and fighting spirit will make readers wish her success--but the novel's irresolute, troubling ending hardly promises a brighter future. (June)
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