A Cure for Dreams: A Novelby Kaye Gibbons
A story that traces the bonds between four generations of resourceful Southern women through stories passed from one generation to another.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyFurther enchancing her reputation as a chronicler of small-town life in the South, Gibbons ( Ellen Foster ) limns an engaging portrait of a possessive mother and her obedient daughter as the foreground of a larger canvas depicting women's roles in a society bound by tradition, convention and poverty. Deliberately old-fashioned in prose style, down to the chapter headings reminiscent of 19th-century novels, this slim volume is narrated by Betty Randolph, who tells of her domineering mother's life: how she rejected her husband after Betty was born and was relieved to be left a young widow and the ``queen bee'' of the community; how mother and daughter became inseparable, until Betty was in her 20s and suddenly realized she was on her way to spinsterhood. The plot is a series of loosely connected vignettes, enlivened by Betty's tart comments and the pithy aphorisms of plain country folk (of an officious woman, Betty says, ``I`m sure when she died and entered heaven she asked to see the upstairs''). Gibbons conveys the atmosphere of the Depression and World War II with frequent comments about Presidents Hoover and FDR, and such period detail as the birth of the Dionne quintuplets. Though entertaining, the novel is short on suspense, however; one of the few instances of narrative tension turns on the question of why Betty's suitor has blue lips. (Mar.)
Library JournalThis episodic novel, Gibbons's third, is set during the Depression in back-country Virginia and Kentucky. In 19 vignettes, Betty Davies Randolph reveals her childhood and her mother's life along Milk Farm Road. Gibbons, winner of several literary awards for her first novel Ellen Foster ( LJ 4/15/87), has captured magnificently the dailiness and sense of community of rural life--from midwives and WPA ballads to suicides and men gone wild. Southern, and full of the folk wisdom of generations, Gibbons's voice reveals life's truths: ``Listen and hear what men call their wives. . . . It's easier without a mother at a borning. . . . The ears are the most important parts of a baby.'' Times are tough--Betty's father kills himself and is found upside down on his head in the river with ``rocks on either side, like bookends''--but the women are amazingly resilient; they help each other survive. As an old woman, Betty dies in ``her chair talking, chattering like a string-pull doll,'' but the reader is assured that the storytelling will go on through her daughter and ``the sounds of the women talking.'' Recommended.-- Doris Lynch, Oakland P.L . , Cal.
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