cover image Through the Open Door

Through the Open Door

Joy N. Hulme. HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97870-0

A Mormon family emigrates from Salt Lake City, Utah, to a homesteading property in Clovis, N.Mex., in Hulme's (Sea Squares; Bubble Trouble) labored debut novel set in 1910. Nine-year-old narrator Dora Cookson cannot talk: ""Every time I opened my lips to speak, the sounds were all mixed up and mushy--more like grunts and groans than speaking."" Her teacher shoos her away from school, and the others, including her imperious older sister, dismiss or tease Dora, interpreting her silence as stupidity. Only her brother Ed is kind to her, a relationship that Hulme develops convincingly and compellingly. However, at times the dialogue is contrived to deliver blocks of factual information (e.g., ""[Mormon] was first used as an insult by enemies of the church . They claimed that we worship the man who compiled the Book Of Mormon instead of Jesus Christ,"" the father explains to the children). Just before the family departs for New Mexico, Dora visits a doctor because of a boil near her ear, and he discovers she can't talk. He diagnoses her as ""tongue-tied"" (meaning ""her tongue is fastened down"") and operates to free her tongue, and Dora embarks on a journey not only to a new home but also to find her voice. The Southwestern setting offers an exotic flavor, but the author fills in very few details about day-to-day life for the Cooksons. Readers may feel they know little more about Dora than when they started. Ages 8-12. (July)