Anne D. LeClaire, Author ENTERING NORMALAnne D. LeClai $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-345-44572-8

An emotional wallop comparable to that produced by Sue Miller's The Good Mother or Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World awaits readers of LeClaire's latest (after Sideshow, etc.). In the small town of Normal, Mass., Rose Nelson has never ceased grieving over the accidental death of her teenage son, Todd. Years of unremitting grief—and compulsive housecleaning—have dismayed and frustrated her devoted husband, Ned, who tries to lose himself in work at the filling station he owns. Rose notices a peculiar itch around a mole that could indicate cancer, but tries to dismiss it because she doesn't trust drugs or doctors. At the same time, 20-year-old Opal Gates arrives in town with her young son, Zack, in tow. On the lam from her boyfriend, Billy, and her nagging mother in New Zion, N.C., stubborn, flighty Opal has landed in Normal because that's how far exactly three full tanks of gas have taken her—chance and signs are central to her life. When she rents the house next door to the Nelsons, prudent Rose observes that "girls like Opal suck trouble to them" and resolves not to get involved. Though striving for independence and ambivalent about a new romance, Opal does seem fated to attract trouble. First, Zack breaks his arm when she sneaks out to the store while he's sleeping; then Billy, with Opal's parents' help, files a custody suit. The tentative friendship that slowly develops between Opal and Rose sustains both women as they face new obstacles and old demons, and the saga of these endearing (if at times frustrating) characters will hold readers' interest right up to the bittersweet ending. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (June 6)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Hardcover - 485 pages - 978-0-7862-3567-4
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