Ring Around the Moon

Mary Burnett Smith, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-688-15987-0
Moving from the recent past to memories of 1940, Smith's pleasantly meandering second novel, a sensitive coming-of-age memoir, charts the end of a miserable 14-year marriage in the black neighborhood of a small town outside Philadelphia during WWII. Smith observes the breakup of the marriage between Arleatha and bootlegger Jack ""Blackjack"" Beale through the reminiscences of middle child Amy and of Jack, whose side of the story Amy draws out when he has descended into a derelict old age. Although Amy has a strong memory for the disturbing moments of her childhood, notably her father's drinking, philandering and wife beating, Smith (Miss Ophelia) is at her best chronicling less turbulent aspects of Amy's adolescence: the fuss over hair, finding a friend with whom she has something in common and coming slowly into awareness of the racial and ethnic divisions that carve up her native Westville, Pa. Fine dialogue and vivid characters rather than structural complexity make this a very welcome effort from veteran Philadelphia schoolteacher Smith. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-688-17227-5
Hardcover - 452 pages - 978-0-7838-8527-8
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