JUNIPER TREE BURNING

Goldberry M. Long, Author
Goldberry M. Long, Author . Simon & Schuster $25 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7432-0203-9
Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-0-7432-2211-2
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How would you like it if your name were Juniper Tree Burning? Well, neither does the heroine of Long's stunningly assured, deeply affecting debut. Trying to leave her less than idyllic hippie upbringing behind, brash and blunt Juniper has renamed herself Jennie. But at her wedding, her past resurfaces in the form of her younger brother, Sunny Boy Blue, who behaves abominably—even kidnapping her from the reception. Jennie refuses to forgive him, but when she receives word that he's jumped to his death from a ferry, guilt takes over and she abandons her new husband (she's had trouble letting him get close to her anyway) to follow Sunny's final footsteps from New Mexico to Seattle, hoping to find answers. For good measure, she kidnaps her friend Sarah, who's having problems with her fiancé, and brings her along. How much of our history can be abandoned, and how much must be accepted? Jennie, a troubled young woman who has always believed that fate landed her in the wrong place with the wrong people, seeks to answer these questions as she copes with her feelings of responsibility for a brother whose birth circumstances (breech) and general disposition (disturbed) earned him the nickname "Backwards Boy." Moving seamlessly between past and present, first person and third, Long exquisitely mines the bitter themes of guilt, resentment and dashed hopes, depicting the desperate search for normalcy and the valiant spirit needed to pursue the quest. Anyone who has ever been a prickly pear, or loved one, will identify with this sheer wonder of a heroine. Agent, Jane Dystel. (June 6)

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