Summer of Rescue

Barbara Nelson, Author
Barbara Nelson, Author MacAdam/Cage Publishing $18.95 (307p) ISBN 978-1-878448-58-3
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-684-80114-8
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The drowning death of five-year-old Michael Nichols in a Minnesota lake is at the heart of this quietly affecting first novel. Eleven years later, his parents, Clare and Paul, and their surviving child, Jeanine, now 15, have moved to Arizona, where Clare is still trying to recover from the tragedy. Nelson seamlessly spins the complicated relationships of Clare's life: with Paul, whose love she tests for the first time with another man; with Jeanine, whose first skirmishes with sex stir up a conflict for Clare between parental disapproval and reminders of her own lively sexuality; and with her parents, back in Minnesota, whom she will visit for the first time in nine years this summer. Her father's unopened letters and memories of Michael's death create the growing tension as the visit nears, finally bringing about a catharsis. Nelson has an inspired ability to reveal the magic in mundane moments, and she manages to wring drama from a refreshingly functional family. If anything, the novel's failing is that it so thoroughly records Clare's average American existence that there is much dull routine amidst the unique wonder. Still, the authenticity of Nelson's voice and the delicate precision with which she wields her powers of observation make this a promising debut. (Mar.)
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