Peggy Leon, Author, Peg Leon, Author . Permanent Press $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-57962-095-0

An adolescent Serbian girl deals with her difficult, cloistered upbringing in this evocative coming-of-age novel set in rural Nevada just after World War II. Rebecca Jean Talovich is "Mala," the sheltered narrator who grows up in an enclave of Serbian immigrants in tiny Taylor, Nev., a mining town whose chief claim to fame is that the loneliest road in America runs through it. At the beginning of the novel, 13-year-old Mala observes the funeral of her tough, stoic grandmother, and subsequent chapters flesh out the rest of her idiosyncratic family: Mala's Aunt Anna, the aloof matriarch; her rebellious cousin Josie, who eventually escapes to attend college in Boston; and her spinster aunts Kiki and Mimi, who seem to come as a matched set. Notably absent from the young girl's life are her father, who was killed at Normandy during the war, and her mother, whose death has never been satisfactorily explained. Another major narrative thread deals with the arrival of a new, straightlaced and moralistic sheriff whose strictness disrupts the town's careful equilibrium and proves to be more than some of its residents can handle. Leon's plotting lacks momentum, but she compensates with some excellent character writing and a wide-open prose style, ranging from baroque and surreal to tender and insular, depending on whether she's describing the town's strange characters and their odd adventures or the intricacies of Mala's family. Although the lack of stylistic continuity can make this debut feel a little erratic, Leon exhibits a unique ability to capture the wacky essence of her remote mining town milieu. Book Sense 76 pick for Jan./Feb . (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-5040-2328-3
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