A Time to Be Born

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Amanda Keeler was born on the wrong side of the tracks and would always be reminded of that accident of birth. Not surprisingly she fled the small community of Lakeview, Ohio for New York City at the first opportunity. Once there, Amanda set her sights on Julian Evans, and in short order, she persuaded him to divorce his wife, marry her, and launch her career as a novelist and columnist.

As an international celebrity Amanda is accustomed to receiving request for aid from less fortunate former acquaintances. Ethel Carey, however, is not interested in securing Amanda’s aid for herself, but rather to offer a helping hand to a former classmate, Vicky Haven. Vicky’s lengthy relationship with a local bounder has gone sour, and she must seek pastures untainted by his presence.

Amanda leaps at the opportunity to assist “poor Vicky” with a job and an apartment. Amanda’s generosity, however, has a darker side. She intends to use Vicky’s new apartment for clandestine meetings with a former lover, Ken Saunders. Needless to say, Vicky flourishes in the big city, Amanda receives her comeuppance, and all is ultimately right with the world.

Dawn Powell was inclined to seek approval through her work and not as a literary personality. In consequence, her works went out of print, while those authors who sought attention as individuals were not so challenged. This reissue of her 1942 novel will introduce a new, and undoubtedly appreciative, audience to the wit and wisdom of a truly talented individual. The WASHINGTON POST adjudged the reissue of Powell’s THE LOCUSTS HAVE NO KING to be one of the best novels of 1990, and that appraisal should be extended to A TIME TO BE BORN.