THE SIGHT OF THE STARS
Belva Plain, . . Delacorte, $25.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33683-3
In bestseller Plain's 21st novel, the son of a Jewish shopkeeper and an Irish farm girl seeks, and finds, his fortune in Texas. The saga begins in 1900, when 13-year-old Adam Arnring learns his parents had never married. His father and stepmother are good people, but he never really wanted to work in the family shop, so at 19 he hops a westbound train from New Jersey with $150 in his pocket. In the small but prosperous and growing town of Chattahoochee, Tex., he parlays his family grocery store experience and a moment of serendipity into a start-up job in a local clothing store. Thanks to years of hard work and a bit of luck, Adam takes over the business and becomes a wealthy and successful man; he even marries Emma Rothirsch, the formidable founder's beautiful and musical niece. Plains speeds forward as Adam and his family in Texas and back in New Jersey suffer the tragedies of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. She shows Adam turn from a bachelor to a father of five, then to a grandfather and a great-grandfather. Her characters are pleasant and her plot is well paced, with dashes of intrigue, family feuds and secrets to spice things up. However, a side plot involving one of Adam's half-brothers, the hapless misfit Leo, who buries himself in mysterious books and comes to a fortune through blackmail, completely misses the mark. There's nothing revelatory here, just a lot of characters living their lives, and as such, it's an entertaining enough tale.
Reviewed on: 12/22/2003