cover image Light from a Distant Star

Light from a Distant Star

Mary McGarry Morris. Crown, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-45186-6

In her latest, Morris (Songs in Ordinary Time) offers a timeless and timely look at small town life, as seen by wise, verbose, and intensely na%C3%AFve thirteen-year-old heroine Nellie Peck. Set in the town of Springvale during the summer before Nellie begins middle school, Morris ably juggles compelling storylines and characters. The Peck family faces financial ruin: Nellie's father, busy writing a history of their town, neglects his hardware store, but refuses to sell it; her mother takes in a boarder, stripper Dolly Bedelia, to help pay the bills. Bucky Saltonstall, a new boy in town, turns out to be a cruel liar and a thief. Nellie's junkyard-owning grandfather, Charlie, has hired an ex-convict handyman, Max. When Dolly is found murdered in her apartment, suspicion quickly falls on Max, but Nellie knows that Dolly had been secretly seeing wealthy businessman Andy Cooper. No one believes Nellie's version; worse still, Cooper happens to be the potential buyer for her father's store. While supporting figures, like Nellie's father Benjamin, are well-developed, others, like Bucky and Charlie, remain one-dimensional. However, Morris' page-turner, (which evokes To Kill a Mockingbird) will satisfy her fans and send new readers searching for her earlier titles. (Sept.)