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Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.

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Returning home can be painful

Hurricane drives young mother back to past

By  Kathy Habel

For The Free Lance–Star

CLEA SHINE, the heroine of Carolyn Wall’s “Playing With Matches,”  has learned it is almost  impossible to escape one’s past.  With a hurricane threatening, Clea heads back to False River, Miss., with her two children.  She is ready to face her past and to accept the consequences.  Years ago, Clea ran away, haunted by  a mother who abandoned her and a secret so painful that she buried it deep in her subconscious.

She is drawn back to False River to the arms of the woman who raised her as her own child, “Auntie” Jerusha Shine.  Jerusha is a strong and spiritual black woman who has escaped her own past to make a meaningful life for herself in False River.

The small town’s one claim to fame is the prison just down the road from Auntie Jerusha’s house.  Across a field of weeds is the home of Clea’s mother, where Clea often hides on the porch to watch the many visitors come and go.  Although the  house begins to disintegrate, her mother  continues to greet the prison guards from the nearby penitentiary in her feather boa and silver slippers, shooing Clea back to  her auntie’s house whenever she sees her.

The author weaves an intriguing story filled with colorful characters and vivid descriptions.  The reader can easily visualize the imposing prison, the dusty streets, the heat and humidity, along with the unusual people who populate this small Southern town.  I am looking forward to Wall’s next book.  If it is half as good as “Sweeping Up Glass” and “Playing With Matches,” I will be most satisfied.

Kathy Habel  is a freelance reviewer  in Spotsylvania County.


By Carolyn Wall

(Random House, $15, 320 pp.)


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