cover image Reflection


Diane Chamberlain / Author HarperCollins Publishers $24 (0p) I

Lightning strikes an elderly woman in the gripping beginning of Chamberlain's (Brass Ring) latest. Too bad the electricity ends there, as the story slackens into an unlikely, melodramatic, often sentimental tale of tragedy, unrequited love and forgiveness. The plot centers around Rachel Huber, a schoolteacher in her early 40s who has returned to her small hometown of Reflection, Penn., to care for Helen Huber, her long-estranged grandmother and the victim of that lightning bolt. The inhabitants of Reflection, it turns out, despise Rachel because of a tragedy that occurred 20 years earlier. She is harassed by store clerks, though the spunky owner of a beauty salon decides to forgive this prodigal daughter, despite the beautician having perhaps more reason than most to hate her. In time, Rachel reignites a romance with an old friend and secret love who's now an unhappily married Mennonite minister. Further secrets are brought to light, revealing that there's more to Helen than meets the eye. All this takes place without much discernible character development, however, making the sugar-coated finale that much more predictable. (Apr.)