Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158
With the insights and literary style that mark the award-winning "The Language of Goldfish," Oneal now tells the story of emotionally battered Anne Cameron, 16 [in "A Formal Feeling"]. Emily Dickinson's poem that starts "After great pain, a formal feeling comes" strikes Anne as an expression of her state. She adopts a formal feeling, a shell, when she goes home from boarding school for Christmas vacation. A year after her mother's death, Anne's father has remarried and she won't allow herself to come close to, or understand, her stepmother Dory…. The girl's worst pain, however, arises from guilt over memories of fighting with her late mother, a perfectionist who demanded the impossible and whom Anne fears she had never loved. In Oneal's uncontrived closing chapters, readers find reasons to hope that Anne's experiences are inducing her to think clearly and to break out of her armor.
A review of "A Formal Feeling," in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 222, No. 4, July 23, 1982, p. 132.