The Moralist of the Alphabet Streets

Fabienne Marsh, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $17.95 (238p) ISBN 978-0-945575-47-4
Marsh ( Long Distance ) begins her second novel with a promising premise and the voice of an appealing heroine, but the work is ultimately disappointing. High school junior Meredith Saunders's recent life-threatening illness--leukemia, now in remission--has left her with an observant eye, a quirky vision and a mature philosophy. In some respects, however--her insecurities, her virginity--she is very much a teenager. Meredith is spending a boring summer in her small suburban town. With her parents on vacation in Europe, she feels responsible for her 82-year-old perennially marriageable grandmother, and her two romantically befuddled older sisters. Most importantly, her best friend, Custer, has fallen in love with an alluring classmate. Meredith's tart observations on her family and friends achieve a certain poignancy because they visibly mask a frightened teenager whistling in the dark. The potential of this situation is never developed, however, and the book becomes a series of character sketches in search of a plot, eventually segueingok into farce as Marsh transports the characters to beach shanties in Provincetown, Mass., and then into improbable tragedy via a mysterious death. Generally banal and repetitious dialogue is balanced by some imaginative imagery. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1991
Release date: 03/01/1991
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