The Bride Who Ran Away

Diana O'Hehir, Author Atheneum Books $0 (249p) ISBN 978-0-689-11985-9
Set a decade after the time she evoked so well in I Wish This War Were Over, O'Hehir's accomplished second novel is based in the small, rural Northern California community of French Ford, in Reno and in other places that are invested with personalities as distinctive as those of the idiosyncratic cast of characters. In fact, O'Hehir is especially skilled at conveying, with nostalgia, what it was like to live in small California towns in the 1950s. The dominant family in French Ford are the ""rich and crazy'' Dowells, one of whom is 19-year-old Grace, the narrator of this sorrow-tinged tale. All the Dowells are eccentric: great-aunt Sybil lives in her antique Buick and flagrantly steals for the fun of it; cousin Steve is neurotic, unstable, filled with unexplained despair; newly married cousin Indiana commits suicide, on the day the novel opens. Grace, who has been in love with Steve since she was a child, is unofficially engaged to him, but Indiana's death sets off a series of events that make her flee the sanctuary of home and family until she can come to grips with her new knowledge of Steve and her future. O'Hehir immediately establishes an air of portent and flags Steve as the evil character, and young David McCracken, scion of the other important French Ford family, as his opposite. But Grace wavers between the two until a violent turn of events makes a seer's prophecy come true. O'Hehir writes gracefully and sensitively, and the novel attains a mythic quality, as though the characters are working out their inevitable fates. But because Steve remains a murky character, his malevolent essence superimposed rather than convincingly revealed, the narrative does not attain the gripping emotional impact of O'Hehir's earlier work. It is, however, a book to enjoy for its clear and well-paced prose, and its wonderful small vignettes: scenes in a carny show, a ghost town, an abandoned mine. (April)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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