Haven's Wake

Ladette Randolph, Author
Ladette Randolph. Univ. of Nebraska/Bison, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4357-6
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This second novel (after A Sandhills Ballad) from Ploughshares editor Randolph follows a Mennonite family in the days surrounding the death of its patriarch, Haven Grebel. Slowly paced and at times digressive, the novel generously renders the Grebel family even as it exposes their prejudices and failures. Haven's wife, Elsa, has managed her life with stern stoicism and, following the death of her larger-than-life husband, struggles to maintain harmony in the fractious family unit. Jonathan, the eldest son, has left the fold for life in Boston and his brother Jeffery is mired in depression. Haven's death, Jonathan's return, and the sharp curiosity of Jeffery's young daughter Anna June collude to upset Elsa's fiercely controlled borders. Inevitably, the Grebel family history is neither as clean or straightforward as it first appears; as the family grieves, darker turns in their shared past resurface and must be addressed. The novel is a touch uneven and drags in places, but Randolph is an excellent writer, telling the story with a frankness and humor that keeps it from sinking into melodrama. (Mar)
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