Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Book Review: "It's A Girl Thing"

Nonconformist writers are typically knowing and self-regarding, but Beverly Lewis is more of a windowpane than an oddball. Her prose is transparent, her characters lifelike, their problems universal.

Structured like a triptych, "It's A Girl Thing," a story about 15-year-old Holly, is an elegant work. It begins with a very religious high school freshman's acceptance in a choir trip to Washington, DC - which happens to fall on the due date of the birth of her sister, which would require her to relinquish her dreams and babysit her younger siblings. Its central — and much longer — section focuses on her nearly-thwarted romance with a California boy, Sean, a fellow choir singer and devout Christian. The final chapters rejoin the young lovers at the FBI building, and their mutual admiration for both Jesus and good pizza.
One of the strengths of "It's A Girl Thing" is Holly's struggle with her bratty stepbrother Stan, an irresponsible teen who feels raising children is "woman's work," in reflection of Adam's tilling the soil and Eve's tending Cain and Abel. His refusal to take part in helping with the family prevents Holly from fulfilling her dream of being a star on the Washington stage. This is a setting that resonates with the loss felt by Lewis's characters. Deftly interweaving the varying manifestations of grief and absence in these diverse lives, she illuminates the ways people devise — or stumble across — their strategies for maintaining emotional equilibrium. As the plot progresses, the sounding and resounding of loss and consolation becomes increasingly affecting, like the deepening elaboration of a fugue. The sacrifies made for Holly to go to Washington with her choir, to accept a suitable mate through the will of God, and to find love with her devout California lad balance this novel nicely.

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