cover image Weeping Willow

Weeping Willow

Ruth White. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38255-1

White ( Sweet Creek Holler ) continues to plumb her youthful memories of the Virginia mountains in this trenchant tale of a girl's coming-of-age in the late 1950s. What would be the central subject--the heroine's rape by her stepfather--of a typical problem novel is here only one of many themes that White has dexterously interwoven to create a rich and shimmering tapestry. Prompted by ``Aunt'' Evie, who encourages her to think positively about herself, hitherto friendless Tiny begins a new life when she enters high school. Her days are soon filled with fun and friendship--and the too-close attentions of her hard-drinking stepfather, Vern. After Vern rapes her, Tiny confides in no one but her adored band teacher, to whom she sends anonymous letters. But when she realizes that Vern has also been abusing her younger half-sister, she finally tells her mother, who metamorphoses from a passive slattern into an assertive protector. And just as her mother discovers a way out of her dead-end existence, Tiny, too, learns that she has other choices in life than early marriage and motherhood. Written in crackling hill-country vernacular, by turns funny, tender, sweet and sad, this is a moving testament to the power and resiliency of the spirit. Ages 12-up. (May)