FRESH AIR

Charlotte Vale Allen, Author, Charlotte Vale Allen, Author
Charlotte Vale Allen, Author, Charlotte Vale Allen, Author . Mira $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-55166-682-2
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Spunky nine-year-old Katanya Taylor, from Harlem, moves in with agoraphobic Lucinda Hunter, in Connecticut, when Katanya's original Fresh Air Fund matchup for a two-week vacation goes awry. At the start of this tale of reawakening and reconciliation—Vale Allen's 37th novel—young Katanya opens up 46-year-old Lucinda's life, breathing fresh air into her staid existence. Lucinda's world once revolved around her mother, Lily, who lived a rags-to-riches saga as a Hollywood star. Lily's untimely death from breast cancer left 19-year-old Lucinda—recently graduated from Yale with successful screenplays already under her belt—both orphaned and wealthy, with unanswered questions about her absent father, who she has come to learn was partly black. Her subsequent history—after the loss of her mother and a failed love affair, she becomes a total recluse—is not entirely credible, and now, 27 years later, it's hard to believe that a few encounters with Katanya could cure such a deeply rooted problem. Yet the author builds a poignant story out of Lucinda's search for her black roots and the family that she never knew. And Katanya, with her bright outlook on life, street smarts and spirited personality, is a delightful character. Despite the rather schematic fictional world Allen creates, the fluidity of her prose and her easy narrative skills are persuasive, and there's no doubt that readers will find her characters immensely appealing. (Apr.)

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