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  Fiction Review   

 
SWAN PLACE
By Augusta Trobaugh
Dutton, 2002
Hardcover $22.95 (272 pp)
ISBN: 0-525-94688-8

 

 
 

At fourteen, Dove knows more about life than any teenager should. Her step-father Roy Ellis divides his time between working to provide the necessities for Dove, Molly, and Little Ellis, and visiting his sick wife in the hospital. Dove longs for the Saturday nights when her Mama and Roy Ellis would dress up in spangled clothes and go dancing at the honky-tonks just over the state line.

Believing they can manage with help from Aunt Bett, who takes the children to church, and Aunt Mee, their neighbor, Dove and Roy Ellis make the decision to stay together as "a family" after her mother's death.

When Roy Ellis brings home a seventeen-year-old wife from a weekend visit to the honky tonk, Dove and Aunt Bett hold their tongues and find themselves loving Crystal as one of their own. To her credit, Crystal never tries to replace Dove's mother, she opts to be the "older sister" Dove never had. Roy's untimely death forces Aunt Bett and Dove to face unpleasant legal realities. When a custody battle threatens to separate Dove from her two younger siblings, Aunt Mee, their black neighbor and confidante, helps the struggling family find a safe location at Swan Place.

A wise teacher gives Dove a notebook with the instructions to write. In the last entry of her journal, she writes, "These are my stories of losing and of gaining, stories of good people and some who couldn't find a way to be good, but mostly stories about love -- that incredible gift I fought so hard against. In the end, it was all that mattered."

In Dove, Augusta Troubaugh has created a precocious young woman struggling with class, gender, and race issues. Dove questions her own understanding of religion, sexuality, and responsibility.

Trobaugh, who lives in Georgia, is the author of three previous novels, Sophie and the Rising Sun, Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb, and Praise Jerusalem!.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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