Barbara Corcoran Jean Fritz - Essay

Jean Fritz

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Not all desperate teen-age runaways have the good fortune to run straight into the arms of exactly the right person to help them. Barbara Corcoran's heroines generally do. With a lesser author, this could be simply slick plotting, but with Barbara Corcoran the very fortuitousness is, I think, part of the message at the core of her writing. "Trust life," she says. "Go into the world. There'll be good people out there as well as bad. There'll be help." She handles her theme like a prism, holding it up to catch the light at different angles, turning it this way and that so that each book is a fresh experience and a variation of the pattern.

In ["A Dance to Still Music"] the heroine is closed off from the world by deafness. Fourteen-year-old Margaret, after a severe illness, is trying in a bitter way to accept her handicap but not to overcome it. Recently uprooted from her home in Maine, she lives with her waitress mother in Key West, Fla., where she neither knows nor cares to know anyone….

With the idea of hitchhiking back to Maine, Margaret hides in a pick-up truck until the truck accidentally hits and wounds a fawn. Generally there is a wild animal in Barbara Corcoran's books; indeed her stories are played out on the thin line between wilderness and civilization, and the intertwining of the two adds depth to her theme. It is now that Margaret meets Josie, the lucky, made-to-order person, who takes Margaret and the fawn aboard her houseboat and gradually brings them to the point of re-entering their worlds. One of Barbara Corcoran's most gripping stories.

Jean Fritz, "For Young Readers: 'A Dance to Still Music'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 17, 1974, p. 8.