LOOKING FOR MARY GABRIEL
A tinted review in adult Forecasts indicates a book that's of exceptional importance to our readers but hasn't received a starred or boxed review.
Stilted storytelling, once-upon-a-time contrivances and the hackneyed theme of parental damage inflicted on innocent children characterize Lawrence's debut coming-of-age novel, which alternates time frames between the '50s and the '90s. As the story opens in 1995, 52-year-old Bonita Gabriel has just learned of her father's death and must notify her sister, Mary, who lives in an institution for the incurably insane, convinced she's Dan Rather's wife. Flash back to their youth in Baton Rouge, La., with parents who sound like the Cleavers, but who have dark secrets and willful obsessions. Mary, from an early age, is different from the other kids, but their father refuses to acknowledge her illness and tells Bonita that she's responsible for her obviously disturbed younger sister. As Bonita prepares for her father's funeral, she reflects on a family history that involved schizophrenia, mysterious death and the antecedents for Bonita's own estrangement from church and family. Although Lawrence movingly portrays a child's confusion and helplessness when faced with parental authority, the suspense of impending doom that hangs over the tale does nothing to mitigate the problem that the callow conversations of youth form far too much of the novel to hold adult attention for long. Everyone talks more naïvely than their age, as though stuck forever in a '50s TV program, and the facile ending harps on the theme of Christian forgiveness. Agent, Linda Allen. (June)
Release date: 06/01/2002