cover image Moira's Way

Moira's Way

Susan Sullivan Saiter. Dutton Books, $21.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-372-7

Saiter ( Cheerleaders Can't Afford to Be Nice ) explores a long legacy of childhood abuse in this painfully genuine second novel. Moira McPherson and her younger sister Taryn grow up during the '50s and '60s in an alarmingly alienated family in Sioux Falls, S.D. Their father, a traveling salesman, binges on alcohol every night, going from reticent to wisecracking to violent; their acid-tongued mother, whose pregnancy forced her to marry at age 16, never enjoyed her youth and denies her children the right to enjoy theirs. Moira's typically awkward entrance into puberty is made doubly difficult by her father's leers and her mother's ridicule. Eventually, Moira learns that dressing provocatively makes her feel attractive, and that a willingness to have sex can win her the attention she craves. A sense of impending tragedy accompanies this insightful but sadly demoralizing tale, which ends on a positive note by suggesting that even a ``bad'' girl can overcome profound hardship. Written in clear, unadorned prose, Saiter's uncompromising gaze at the dynamics of twisted family relationships has the ring of truth. 40,000 first printing; author tour. (Sept.)