Linda Bruckheimer, Author . Dutton $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-525-94454-6

In a plodding second novel, Bruckheimer (Dreaming Southern ) revisits the familiar Down South iconography of her debut as two sisters retrace a cross-country trip made decades before with their flighty mother, Lila Mae. Their destination is Blue Lick Springs, Ky., their long-forsaken hometown, and the trip's raison d'être is Lila Mae's 75th birthday. But once they get to Blue Lick, Rebecca and Carleen (joined by third sister Irene, who arrives by Greyhound bus) become embroiled in various plot lines. The novel relies heavily on local color, but clichéd scenarios and scene-setting foil the author's attempts to bring Blue Lick to life. Though Bruckheimer's prose strains for lyricism, the logjam of metaphors and similes in almost every sentence is tiresome and distracting. "The man... was a five-foot pipsqueak with lollipop-pink skin and a mouse-brown hairpiece that sat on his head like a fried egg." Dialogue aiming to recreate Southern parlance misfires ("Ya done good, girl, ya done rilllll good") and slows the narrative. What little plot the author constructs is camouflaged by shopworn sentiment: "My nerves are drawn tight as the strings of a Stradivarius. But, there is magic in the night, and I am infused with excitement, as if the wings of some exotic bird were flapping inside me." Some readers may manage to make it to the end of this poorly organized novel, but it's unlikely they'll be infused with anything but irritation. Agent, Lynn Nesbit . (Apr. 12)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Hardcover - 600 pages - 978-1-58724-654-8
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-452-28037-3
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