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Gayle Brandeis, Author . Ballantine $23.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-345-49260-9

Flan Parker is floundering: her sweet but hapless husband, Shae, is procrastinating on finishing his dissertation, their young children are running wild, and the beloved yard sales she holds in their University of California-Riverside student housing cul-de-sac are under fire from the housing office. Then Flan becomes fascinated with her Afghani neighbors, particularly the wife, Sodaba, hidden beneath a burqa. When Sodaba, pulling into her driveway, accidentally runs over Flan's daughter, racial tension in the community is heightened. The unlikely friendship that develops between Sodaba and Flan in the accident's aftermath sparks its share of trouble as the FBI begins investigating Sodaba's husband for suspected ties to terrorism. Flan is an endearing, juicy character: well-intentioned, less than perfect, with a love of the old and faded (the ancient copy of Leaves of Grass she totes around and frequently quotes, for instance). Unfortunately, the inevitable political discussions (the book is set in the summer of 2002, and fears of another 9/11-style attack run rampant) are unsatisfying and banal. Brandeis, a winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction (described as "in support of a literature of social change), clearly wants to provoke social reflection. The book is most powerful when focusing on small, intimate moments. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 09/25/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 198 pages - 978-0-345-50446-3
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-345-49261-6
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