cover image Defining Dulcie

Defining Dulcie

Paul Acampora, . . Dial, $16.99 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-3046-5

Acampora deftly mixes the bitter with the sweet throughout this first novel. Sixteen-year-old Dulcie Morrigan Jones's father, a janitor at her high school, has just died as a result of inadvertently mixing together and inhaling two chemically incompatible cleaning solutions. "Isn't losing Dad enough of a change?" the narrator asks when her mother announces that the two of them will be moving from Connecticut to California. After bidding farewell to her beloved grandfather, Frank, Dulcie and her mother head west in her father's 1968 Chevy pickup. When Dulcie's mother later decides to trade in the pick-up, the prospect of losing this remnant of her father is too much, and Dulcie drives it back to the home she cannot leave behind. She moves in with Frank, also a janitor, and spends the summer working with him and another student, Roxanne. Much of the novel's charm grows out of Dulcie's budding friendship with Roxanne, who is coping with an abusive mother, and the humor bandied about between the two girls and Frank. Dulcie's narrative realistically mixes joy and pain in reminiscences about her father and her solo cross-country journey, which included visits to the Kansas Fainting Goat Farm and the Shrine of Holy Relics in Ohio. Reflecting on her Ohio stop, Dulcie muses that her father's truck, the dictionaries he gave to her, and her grandfather's kitchen table "were my own relics—pieces and fragments of places and people that I could hold and remember." A carefully crafted, impressive debut. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)