cover image Daughters


Paule Marshall. Atheneum Books, $19.95 (408pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12139-5

This richly textured, intelligent, emotionally involving novel will add to Marshall's ( Praisesong for the Widow ) stature both as a prose writer and as a sensitive chronicler of lives of people of color. Daughter of ``the PM,'' a charismatic politician on the West Indian island of Triunion, and the American-born woman he married, Ursa MacKenzie thinks her life is ``a series of double exposures . . . the same things repeated everywhere she turns.'' Ursa, a freelance consumer researcher living in Manhattan, is disillusioned when she returns to a city that had been the focus of a previous study and finds that the black politician she had admired has sold out to real estate developers. Meanwhile, back home in Triunion, her formerly incorruptible father is cooperating with white developers in plans for a glitzy resort that will despoil the environment and sacrifice the well-being of the poverty-stricken people of his district. Ursa is also anguished over her decision to have an abortion, especially as she herself was born only after her mother endured a series of miscarriages. Marshall is meticulous with details, whether building a scene or the texture of a life. A cast of secondary characters both in New York and in Triunion are as complexly nuanced, as fallible yet appealing as the protagonists. A subtext is the subtle racism that blacks endure, even those who seem solidly upper-middle-class. Though it grapples with tough questions, the novel gives no pat answers; the ambiguous ending reinforces Marshall's clear-sighted candor. Author tour. (Oct.)