Baby Todd and the Rattlesnake Stradivarius

Teresa Kennedy, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (343p) ISBN 978-0-312-00563-4
Baby Todd isn't a baby at all but a sweet and oft-wed senior citizen of Atlantis, Texas. She's the sister of Iris Lee Strait, recent widow and purse-lipped matriarch of a family that also belies its name. Numbered among the Straits are Charles T., whose wife Grace left him 20 years earlier to both seek and render salvation in Latin America, and their three grown children, rock singer Davey, Grace, who has just left her husband in New York, and the mute, fiddle-playing Boo. How Boo gets his hands on the 18th century violin with the dried rattles from a snake inside is the subject of this spirited, earthy tale. Interspersed in the narration of the Straits' lives following the death of Ray Ed, Iris Lee's husband, the Strad is traced through the hands of its various owners, beginning with an also-mute maiden lady in Louisiana who stole the instrument from her violin instructor when he left her bed. By turns given and stolen to an assortment of fiddlers, the violin helped a revivalist preacher bring souls to God, though he lost his own to a skinny mountain girl who would gain skills in conjuring and live longer than she needed. Later it would lie in the wardrobe of a lovesick undertaker who embalmed the preacher's grandson, first husband of Baby Todd and true love of Iris Lee. Vigorous, raunchy and wise, Kennedy's family saga arranges the truths of death and betrayal with the magic of love and music into a foot-stomping country symphony. (June 16)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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