Deaner's debut novel is an absorbing and often compelling story of a young girl's obsession with her troubled, secretive mother. Moving from Detroit to a village in upstate New York in 1967, 10-year-old Maddie's fragile family is on the verge of collapse. Her father Leo's new job in the music department of a small college reawakens his passion for jazz, sending her mother, Lana, a semi-invalid who spends her days writing in a closely guarded journal, into a physical and emotional tailspin. As Maddie tries to uncover the source of her mother's odd behavior, she begins to piece together the story of Lana's life with Leon 10 years earlier in New York City--a shadowy world of whorehouses, Harlem jazz clubs, racism and violence. The guilt-ridden Maddie's sleuthing ultimately teaches her some hard lessons about the consequences of keeping secrets--and of divulging them. As an initiation story, the book is not entirely satisfying: instead of helping her reach maturity, Maddie's experiences seem to make her more exhausted, frightened and nervous than ever. However, Deaner does relate an engrossing mystery in graceful prose; her narrative possesses a cinematic momentum--the author is a graduate student in film studies--that relies heaviy upon flashbacks (conveniently obtained from Lana's diaries and several canisters of old film) to solve the puzzle. Though the heart-tugging plot sometimes suffers from an excess of drama, the book has real commercial potential. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1993 Release date: 03/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 464 pages - 978-0-451-17919-7
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.