CARLEY'S SONG

Patricia Houck Sprinkle, Author . Zondervan $11.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-310-22993-3

Sprinkle follows up The Remember Box with this absorbing continuation of the life of an adolescent girl in North Carolina in the 1950s. Job's Corner has become home for orphaned 12-year-old Carley Marshall, poised on the brink of adulthood and wrestling with new feelings and desires. Carley longs for approval from her teacher, the beautiful divorcée Maddie Raeburn, and lavishes her romantic dreams on Clay Lamont, the red-headed choir director at Bethel Presbyterian Church. Like all small towns, Job's Corner has dark secrets lurking just underneath the surface: rape, an illicit love affair, wife abuse, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and murder. But as Carley's uncle, the Rev. Stephen Whitfield, says, "Snow is a lot like grace—both cover a heap of dirt and make everything more beautiful." Sprinkle is adept at crafting memorable settings that feel historically authentic, and she portrays Carley's first crush on an unobtainable older man in sweet, nostalgic ways. Indeed, the best parts of the book focus on Carley's innocent experimentation with the trappings of adulthood. There are some problematic areas: the dialect of a five-year-old character is grating, and Sprinkle might better have focused on one or two crises rather than throwing in every disaster imaginable, several of them predictable (we can see one character's rape and the school fire coming a mile away). But the writing itself is superb, the murder is resolved in a surprising way and there's plenty of redemption and hope laced throughout to please Christian fiction buffs. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/10/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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