SWEET & CRAZY

Patty Dann, Author . St. Martin's $22.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-312-31666-2

Using September 11 as a backdrop, Dann (Mermaids) examines issues of death, racism and widowhood in smalltown America. Hanna's husband, Ed, died of brain cancer at 45, leaving her to raise their four-year-old son, Pete. Hanna, 39, who teaches creative writing to retirees at the Y in Ash Creek, Ohio, is just starting to move on when terrorists attack the U.S. For Pete, the tragedy is simple: "A plane of bad guys crashed into a control tower at the airport. Some kids got to leave school early." But for other people in Hanna's world—namely, her friend Mazur, the South Asian–American proprietor of the local dry-cleaning shop—the events have a much greater impact. Mazur becomes a victim of hate crimes, and Hanna even receives threats (due to her Jewish ancestry, an anomaly in Ash Creek). Meanwhile, a concurrent story line reveals Hanna's developing romance with her next-door neighbor, Thomas, who works at an 18th-century colonial village on the edge of town. Although the story is fairly straightforward, it covers some weighty issues, which Dann addresses in sparse, almost childlike prose. "All I wanted was life to be regular for Pete," Hanna thinks immediately after September 11. Later, planning Pete's birthday party, she reports, "The next days I was abuzz with birthday plans, as much as one woman can be abuzz." Although the book feels at times like the first draft of a deeper, richer reflection, Dann nonetheless offers a simple, genuine tale of renewal after loss. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/08/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-312-31667-9
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4668-3536-8
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