BROKEN AS THINGS ARE

Martha Witt, Author . Holt $23 (293p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7595-3

Told in the dry, savant-like voice of 14-year-old Morgan-Lee, this tale of a Southern girl's coming-of-age gives a droll twist to the tropes of dysfunction. Morgan-Lee and her handsome, "unwell" 15-year-old brother, Ginx, are as emotionally close as twins. They have a secret language—a nonsensical patois that Ginx created—and share a running story about a brother and sister who are given permission to love each other forever and ever. Their mother is an overdelicate flower who's taken to her bed rather than face her son's problems; their father is kind but incapable of taking control; and their younger sister, Dana, has all but abandoned the family, moving into her aunt and uncle's house next door. Everything is proceeding as well as can be expected—one accepts, for example, that it's okay for Ginx to give his sister the occasional concussion—until Morgan-Lee falls in love with her childhood friend, Billy. Neither sibling is prepared for the inevitable as Morgan-Lee's adolescence strains the family bonds and pitches the household into full-blown crisis. Arch, slyly humorous and occasionally overblown ("I felt my jaw throb and swell, drinking the purple and black straight out of that warm evening"), this is an unusual, uncompromising debut. Agent, Bill Clegg. Author tour. (Aug. 3)

Reviewed on: 07/19/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4299-9455-2
Paperback - 293 pages - 978-0-312-42486-2
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