cover image Keeping Secrets

Keeping Secrets

Sarah Shankman. Simon & Schuster, $18.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-66057-4

This upbeat, exuberant journey of discovery follows Emma Fine, a keen-eyed, independent-minded Jewish girl from her home in West Cypress, La., to Atlanta, New York and then California in a restless search for her own identity. Emma's quest begins with her background, a crazy quilt of confusing ethnic mixtures. Her natural mother, Helen Kaplan, was born in an obscure Georgia hamlet and died shortly after Emma's birth. Her father, Jake Fine, is a taciturn and morose New Yorker not far removed from the pale of Eastern Europe. Lonely and incapable of caring for Emma after Helen's death, Jake arranges a marriage of convenience with Rosalie Norris, a rigid and uncompromising Baptist from West Cypress. As Emma matures into a stunning, highly intelligent and sensual young woman, her questions about the past are met with confusion and evasion by both Jake and Rosalie. In her ultimate act of rebellion, Emma marries Jesse Tree, an extraordinarily talented black sculptor she meets in California. The headstrong and unyielding couple are headed for marital disaster when Emma returns once more to West Cypress only to be badly jolted by further revelations about her natural parents. This strong, firmly controlled coming-of-age novel has memorable, sharply defined characters. (July)