Plenty Good Room

Teresa McClain-Watson, Author
Teresa McClain-Watson, Author Fjord Press $14 (0p) ISBN 978-0-940242-74-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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Thirteen-year-old Bay Dawson, hero of this engaging if sentimental first novel in the Fjord Discoveries series, has seen a lot of violence in his life: his 15-year-old brother was shot and killed while robbing a neighborhood convenience store; his best friend was murdered by his father; and his mother--a sometime drug user and prostitute--has been jailed for fighting. But for all that, Bay's Harlem environs provide him with intermittent love and attention. Drunken neighbors Big Ike and Miss Cency dote on him, and loud-mouthed, hellfire-and-brimstone Reverend Ruby and her soft-spoken husband are always ready to offer a kind word. Still, Bay's mother is terrified that her only surviving son will be a casualty of the violence around them. Her recourse is to call Bay's father, Thomas Bach, a rich Florida slumlord who has not seen his son in nine years. The next thing Bay knows, he is on a bus to Jacksonville. Told in Bay's shaky, adolescent voice, McCain-Watson's narrative gets into the heart of a teenager desperate to know his father and win his affection--a desire doomed, in this case, from the start. Bay may be too psychologically savvy for a 13-year-old, and too many of the characters in the book are whole-cloth stereotypes; nevertheless, McCain-Watson believably, touchingly captures Bay's wide-eyed transition from poverty to ""living large,"" and his final decision to give up a losing battle for love and leave his father's ostensibly good life behind. (Sept.)
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