Rich in Love

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Bicycling home from school on May 10, Lucille has a premonition that something fundamental has changed. In place of her mother, she finds a terse, callous note to her father informing him that, after twenty-seven years of marriage, “it is time for me to start a second life.” Lucille forges another, more compassionate farewell message. She begins to help her father search for his vanished wife and to record other blows to the illusory stability of the Odoms.

Her beautiful twenty-five-year-old sister Rae returns from a job in Washington pregnant and towing a husband, an unemployed historian with whom Lucille falls in love. Her father, a retired demolition executive, takes up with a hair stylist vastly different from her mother. Lucille, who thinks that Latin is “the only useful course I had at Wando High,” is too preoccupied to take her final exams.

What distinguishes this novel from other coming-of-age stories is that its narrator, who as a fetus managed to survive an abortion that vacuumed off her twin, seems to have been born at the age of ninety. The age that Lucille must come to is seventeen. She learns the lesson of “the strength and fragility of things, the love and the luck hidden together in the world.”

“I loved, loved, loved the place I lived,” declares Lucille, and her story is rich in a sense of place. That place is Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, a coastal community outside Charleston. Lucille imagines what THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN would be like from the perspective of Becky Thatcher. Humphreys’ second novel has some of those qualities, notably an insistent young female voice that cannot be ignored, that keeps echoing in the aural cavities after the final page. Lucille notes that “what I really wanted to do was to ... never again hear the sound of my own voice, outer or...

(The entire section is 757 words.)