cover image Floating in My Mother's Palm

Floating in My Mother's Palm

Ursula Hegi. Simon & Schuster, $17.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-671-68947-6

This impeccably crafted, intensely moving novel, whose narrator is a young girl in post-WW II Germany, confirms Hegi ( Intrusions ) as an exceptionally talented writer. In short chapters that glow with the luminosity of Impressionist paintings, Hegi illuminates Hanna Malter's family and the other inhabitants of a small town on the Rhein.stet sp Her mother, a painter, is a risk-taker who has lost her faith in organized religion but teaches Hanna to have confidence in the powers of nature; her father is a kindly dentist who enjoys the security of an orderly life. Other village residents--a dwarf who is the town gossip, the illegitimate son of an American soldier, an architect whose dreams of death come true in a bizarre fashion, a teenager impregnated by her grandfather--are seemingly ordinary people whose quiet existences mask their sadness or desperation. While she obliquely exposes their secret lives, Hanna also reveals herself as a typical adolescent, whose rashly candid tongue sometimes wounds her friends. Some of the parables are a little too neat, but in general these finely tuned, interlocked vignettes convey both the essence of childhood and the spiritual emptiness of a community unwilling to confront the implications of the recent war. Building in power, the novel offers transcendent moments that affirm the need for some sort of faith to add meaning to our lives. (Mar.)