cover image What Became of Her

What Became of Her

M. E. Kerr. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028435-0

HRosalind Slaymaster has returned to her hometown of Serenity, Pa., with a chip on her shoulder ""the size of Apollo 11."" Now the richest woman in Bucks County, she's ruffling feathers by renovating the town's 150-year-old amusement park, under the condition that it be renamed after her deceased father. After 16-year-old E.C. (Edgar Cayce) Tobbit (whose protect button ""buzzed for deer done out of their woods by developers, dogs tied to trees under the hot sun and occasionally for a two-footed wretch as well"") and his mother dine with the wealthy widow, he takes Slaymaster's gawky, unpopular adoptive niece, Julie, under his wing and finds himself unwittingly drawn into her aunt's deeply troubled childhood. Kerr (Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!; Deliver Us from Evie) has long championed the outsider in her novels and, in her latest, offers a level of depth and sophistication found in the best of her fiction. After E.C. introduces Julie to his newfound friend, the roguish kleptomaniac charmer Neal, the trio soon forms a tight bond. In an ironic twist, that bond weakens when Neal's flaw gets the best of him and E.C.'s misguided good intentions backfire. Told primarily in E.C.'s homespun first-person narrative, the novel breaks mid-story to Rosalind's heartbreaking childhood diary, illuminating the enigmatic character's motivation and her unseemly tie to her inanimate dummy, Peale--a gift from her dead husband. Kerr, with a masterful, invisible hand, quietly adds layers of meaning to a seductive, psychologically riveting story. (May)