Selling the Lite of Heaven

Suzanne Strempek Shea, Author, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, Author, Shea, Author Atria Books $20 (288p) ISBN 978-0-671-79864-2
Shea's first novel is a delightful foray into the quirks and quibbles of the Polish-Catholic town of Chicopee, Mass. The unnamed narrator, ingenuous yet unflappable, is the 32-year-old daughter of immigrants who have slathered her in Vicks and mild exasperation. Still living under her parents' roof, she is abandoned by her fiance, Eddie Balicki, after, shortly before the wedding, he asks a statue of the Blessed Virgin if he should become a priest and, as Eddie puts it, `` `a minute later, she nods. Twice . . . . It was a miracle.' '' But never mind: Eddie, ``the kind of person who might straighten his sock drawer before company comes,'' was as a boy the sort of kid who played Holy Communion with Necco wafers. So the heroine returns candle snuffers and Corning Ware, cancels caterer and band and places an ad in the Penny Saver for her 2.5-karat, pear-shaped perfect diamond. Over the next 17 months, the pursuit of the right buyer fills out her days of knitting and living vicariously through the images she views while working as a film processor at Fast Foto. More than 60 prospective buyers respond to the ad, including the once-jilted Maria Dusza, who'll ``be back when you're ready,'' and Randy, the Quick Stop clerk whose dreams of an old-fashioned store embarrass his intended but who keeps checking on the ring. When the ring is stolen, the narrator comes to terms with what she wants to do and executes her plan in a particularly joyous conclusion. Rich, funny and gentle, this debut is one of those read-in-one-sitting novels that could be a real sleeper. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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