cover image Second Sight

Second Sight

Mary Tannen / Author Alfred A. Knopf $16.95 (259p) ISBN 978-0-

Tannen's accomplished first novel bears a certain resemblance to Marsha Norman's The Fortune Teller and Susan Richards Shreve's Queen of Hearts. Her blend of the mystical and the mundane may remind some readers of Nancy Willard. But Tannen is an original writer with a distinctive voice, and this is an imaginative, engrossing book. Phone-in psychic Delia Bird (aka Destiny Ortega) lives with her 12-year-old, streetwise son Lazaro in a former brothel in the Hispanic barrio of a decaying industrial city in New Jersey. The widow of a Puerto Rican ""saint'' and the daughter of one of the town's leading citizens, Delia is a fey, childlike woman who is waiting for The One, the man fate has in store for her. Will Appleyard, a history professor who came to Wallingford to do research for his doctorate, thinks he may qualify. Meanwhile, he lives with Delia's mother in a crumbling replica of a medieval castle, where he discovers papers that explain the origin of the curse placed on his family by a Bird of an earlier generation. Though he boasts about his sense of honor and his record of public service, Delia's father Nestor has sponsored a real-estate developer who deals in fraud and arson. Indeed, ``greed and mysticism intertwine like amorous snakes through the history of Wallingford,'' and the worlds of the leading citizens and the criminal underclass come together. Tannen has an intuitive understanding of the fallibilities of human nature; her characters are engagingly flawed, with eccentricities that fix them memorably in the reader's mind. This book marks an impressive debut. (January 6)