The Waking Spell

Carol Dawson, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $19.95 (300p) ISBN 978-0-945575-65-8
East Texas is the setting of Dawson's finely crafted, atmospheric first novel; young Sarah Grissom is the engaging narrator who investigates the mystery surrounding her mother's family. When she is seven, Sarah, her older brother North and their mother are spending the summer months as usual, visiting Grandmother Northgate in her rambling old house, which she shares with her other daughter, her son-in-law and their two girls, Jane and Buntie. Founders of Northgate Memorial Hospital, the family represents all that is socially correct. Life with Grandmother Northgate has always been a seamless routine of muted pleasantry and order, but now Sarah senses strange, unspoken undercurrents beneath the Northgates' unbreachable reserve and gentility, and she realizes that the real language of the family is an unspoken one. Her seventh summer finds her initiated into a secret childhood legend by her brother and cousins; they take her to the crowded (and forbidden) attic to introduce her to the ghost of Northgate. Their ghost is only an ancient wedding gown hanging from cobwebbed rafters, but Sarah is aware of another, more foreboding presence--an anguished spirit discernible only to her, begging for help. Sarah's efforts over the years to decipher both her grandmother's code of decorum and the elusive presence in the attic result in a discovery that is as sad as it is enlightening. Dawson's evocative powers and poetic eye make the long, hot days and twilights of a Texas summer come alive in a book to be savered and shared. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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