cover image Relative Strangers

Relative Strangers

Jean Ferris. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-374-36243-0

Berkeley, who lives with her mother in San Diego, has had little contact with her father except for a few awkward visits and for the inappropriate birthday gifts he has sent through the mail, even though he lives in Los Angeles. His invitation to join him for a two-week vacation in Europe therefore comes as a surprise. Even more startlingly, the estranged father shows up at the international airport with his new wife and sullen, teenage step-daughter in tow. During the trip (which is spiced by a couple of rendezvous with the heroine's new boyfriend, Spike), Berkeley discovers the virtues and frailties of the man who ran from responsibility 17 years ago, and she also comes to understand the reason for her stepsister's loneliness. Travel bugs will savor scenes set in districts of London and Paris that are both romantic and historically significant. Conversations and concerns are realistically portrayed, and Berkeley's final analysis of her newly acquired second family is convincingly mixed. All in all, this book by the author of Across the Grain is quietly compelling. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)