The Lady with the Alligator Purse

Ernest Finney, Author
Ernest Finney, Author Clark City Press $19 (228p) ISBN 978-0-944439-46-3
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In a novel spanning the years 1978-1991, Finney ( Winterchill ) considers the thorny question of what role the past should play in the present. The book's 14 chapters, which read like a series of third-person short stories, probe the distinct points of view of three protagonists: placid, boring Billy; his bitter and curt sister, Ann; and their efficient, patronizing cousin, Kay. All three are somewhat lost, grappling as they pass through their 30s with memories incarnated in the fragment of a childhood jump-rope rhyme that gives the book its title. Twice-divorced Billy still optimistically searches for love, widowed Ann struggles with two teenage daughters, and Kay builds a successful business and solves everyone else's problems but lacks a fulfilling life of her own. They have troubled relationships with their aging, far-from-perfect parents, who moved to California from Kansas before the children were born but whose stories of their Midwestern origins fascinate Kay in particular. Finney illuminates life's small moments and the complex nature of family ties with perception and penetration, but his too-faithful rendition of everyday tedium and disappointments may leave readers feeling dispirited. ( Dec. )
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