cover image Due East

Due East

Valerie Sayers. Doubleday Books, $15.95 (257pp) ISBN 978-0-385-23673-7

This very accomplished first novel, a strong debut for fiction in the Dolphin line, is about a father and daughter both growing up in a small South Carolina town. Mary Faith Rapple, who is 15 and pregnant by a suicidal fellow high school student, narrates her story in the first person: she is determined to have her baby, whatever her widower father Jesse and her other relatives think. Jesse, whose story is told in the third person (and the seamless way this is done is only one of the mature skills of the book) wants to find out who the baby's father isand in the process falls into an unlikely and untidy romance of his own. Not, then, a novel of violent incident; but the narrative tone the author has given Mary Faith is so wry and unerring a combination of innocence and sophistication, foolish Jesse is observed with such sympathy, and the world of a sleepy seaside town is so beautifully caught that by the tender conclusion the reader has been transported into an unfamiliar but truthfully rendered world. It's a novel that's much more than merely promising: it marks the arrival of a true writer. (February)