Leslie Marshall, Author . Grove $24 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1748-9

A six-year-old girl loses her parents in an accident and refashions her life under the tutelage of two bachelor uncles in Marshall's quirky, meandering first novel. Elray Mayhew's parents, Barkley and Jack, are electrocuted in an amusement park Tunnel of Love while celebrating Elray's sixth birthday. Her unlikely new caretakers are "Auntie" Ajax, a middle-aged transvestite who dabbles in amateur theater, and Uncle Harwood, a worldly photographer and roué. They don't get along with each other, but for love of Elray they move into the Mayhew's big home in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. At 12, Elray takes to exploring the labyrinthine rooms of the National Cathedral, where she meets a kindred spirit, 13-year-old Raoul Person. The two reenact the battle of Troy and fool around with her movie camera. When incipient sexuality pushes the two soul mates apart, other nutty, surprising characters begin to dominate Elray's youth, such as Rena Guilfoyle, the raw-boned Irish lawyer preparing them all for a big lawsuit against the amusement park, and Granny Harwood herself, the matriarch who was supposed to have died in a freak fire in Blackie's House of Beef 30 years before. Marshall's tale has all the necessary elements of a gently amusing novel, but they never really coalesce, largely because of Marshall's verbose, often bland writing. In spite of its charming premise, this coming-of-ager feels bloated. Agent, Tina Bennett.(July)

Reviewed on: 05/12/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Paperback - 414 pages - 978-0-552-77190-0
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-8021-4139-2
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-4464-3740-7
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