cover image Beethoven in Paradise

Beethoven in Paradise

Barbara O'Connor. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-374-30666-3

Quirky characters populate this promising, minor-key first novel set in a South Carolina trailer park ironically dubbed Paradise. Twelve-year-old Martin has a rare talent for music, but his father thinks it's a waste of time. Nothing Martin ever has or does is good enough, not his baseball swing, friends or pastimes. ""All my life I ain't never had nothing but disappointments, and you're just icing on the cake,"" his father berates him. When Martin sees a violin in a pawnshop, he dreams of getting it. His unlikely allies are his grandmother Hazeline, his agoraphobic and overweight neighbor, Wylene, and the tall new girl in school, Sybil. The author, who grew up in South Carolina, has an instinctive feel for the local speech and its rhythms. Though the father's emotional cruelty may be difficult reading for some, this book ultimately has a hopeful outlook--resilient people rise against the wind, and self-worth is determined chiefly from within. Ages 10-13. (Apr.)