Follow the River

Paul Bennett, Author Orchard Books (NY) $12.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-531-05714-8
Although it contains some beautiful imagery, this first young adult novel by the poet fails to form a coherent whole. The book is arbitrarily divided into four segments taking place in 1930, 1934, 1936 and 1937. Its central theme is the love between blond, poor Harry ""Lightfoot'' Lee and rich, gypsy-dark Nancy Lee Sutton, which is supposed to tie in with a myth about a strong Indian maiden who dove into a river to await her lover. The plot is episodic, and characters aren't developed, so the melodramatic events that crop up come as thunderbolts out of a clear sky. Several key developments, including brother Ed's liaison with the desperate Mrs. Sutton, occur off stage and are hastily related after the fact; as a result, the reader is more bewildered than moved. Those in the target age group may have a rough time keeping up with the elliptical dialogue of what are supposed to be the unsophisticated residents of a small Depression-era Ohio town (What 17-year-old muses, ``How blind we are, even in moments of prescience''?). The poetry that Bennett inserts in ever-increasing doses as the book winds on is far more compelling than the surrounding prose. Ages 12-up. (October)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
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