Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sufferers are transformed by the transcendent power of love in Rice's (Cloud Nine) uplifting if flawed new family relationship drama. Life has not proved easy for single mom Dianne Robbins, of Gull Point, Conn. Abandoned by her husband, lobsterman Tim McIntosh, just before their daughter Julia was born with spina bifida and Rett syndrome--a debilitating physical condition and an autism-like disorder, respectively--Dianne supports herself and Julia by building children's playhouses. At the age of 11, Julia weighs 29 pounds, and there is no guarantee she will live much longer; yet she has a magical radiance. Despite the difficulties of caring for a severely disabled child, Dianne is never bitter, and her relationship with Julia is hope filled and loving. Dianne had also believed that her strong love would repair Tim's damaged self-esteem and save their marriage. Now she is wary of getting involved with a man again. But Tim's brother, Alan, who also happens to be Julia's pediatrician, has been secretly in love with Dianne for years, and his steadfast devotion may be just what she needs. Meanwhile, Amy Brook, an adorable 12-year-old from a troubled family (and a familiar device in Rice's novels), finds sanctuary in the Robbins household and becomes Julia's best friend; through Amy's example, Dianne finally understands what true love means. The author takes an unaccustomed shortcut when she reveals the plot's conclusion through heretofore silent Julia's thoughts. Had Rice interwoven Julia's reactions throughout the book, the final chapter would not seem a quick device to tie up loose ends. Still, the novel's theme--love's miraculous ability to heal--has the ingredients to warm readers' hearts. Major ad/promo. (Feb.) FYI: Rice's Cloud Nine will be released as a mass market paperback in January. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Fans of Rice's sentimental fiction will not be disappointed with her latest offering. Dianne Robbins, a single, working mother, spends her days in her studio, constructing elaborate playhouses and caring for Julia, her severely handicapped, terminally ill daughter. Although her husband, Tim, fled when Julia was born, Tim's brother Alan, the town pediatrician, has tenderly ministered to Julia throughout her difficult life. Working closely while caring for Julia, Dianne and Alan rekindle their former relationship, and Dianne finally admits that she married "the wrong brother." After Amy, a 12-year-old from an abusive home, moves in with Dianne as a foster child, happiness seems within reach for everyone--until a freak accident threatens Dianne's and Amy's lives. Susie Breck's narration of this fast-moving story is exceptional, especially her treatment of Amy and Julia. Although tighter editing might have been in order for this occasionally preachy tearjerker, Rice's popularity makes it a sound choice for popular collections.--Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A tightly paced story that is hard to put down....[Rice's] message remains a powerful one: the strength of precious family ties can ultimately set things right." —Publishers Weekly
"One of those rare reading experiences that we always hope for....What a joy!" —Library Journal
Praise for the novels of Luanne Rice:
"A tightly paced story that is hard to put down...Rice's message remains a powerful one: the strength of precious family ties can ultimately set things right."—Publishers Weekly
"Elegant...Rice hooks the reader on the first page."—Hartford Courant
"One of those rare reading experiences that we always hope for when cracking the cover of a book...A joy."—Library Journal
"Exciting, emotional, terrific. What more could you want from a late-summer read?"—The New York Times Book Review
"A rare combination of realism and romance."—The New York Times Book Review
"Eloquent...A moving and complete tale of the complicated phenomenon we call family."—People
Read an Excerpt
Snow was falling in New York. The flakes were fine and steady, obscuring the upper stories of Midtown's black and silver buildings. Snow covered the avenues faster than city plows could clear it away. It capped stone monuments and the Plaza's dormant fountain. As night closed in, and lights were turned on in every window, the woman stood with the young girl, breathing in the cold air.
"The snow looks so magical in the city!" Amy, twelve, said in amazement.
"It's so beautiful," Dianne agreed.
"But where do the kids go sledding?"
"In Central Park, I think. Right over there," Dianne said, pointing at the trees coated in white, the yellow lights glowing through the snow.
Amy just stared. Everything about New York was new and wonderful, and Dianne loved seeing the city through her eyes. Fresh from the quiet marshlands of eastern Connecticut, they had checked into the Plaza hotel, visited Santa at Macy's, and gone ice skating at Rockefeller Center. That night they had tickets to see the New York City Ballet dance The Nutcracker.
Standing under the hotel awning, they took in Christmas lights, livery-clad doormen, and guests dressed for a gala evening. Three cabs stood at the curb, snow thick in their headlights. At least twenty people were lined up, scanning the street for additional cabs. Hesitating for just a moment, Dianne took Amy's hand and walked down the steps.
Overwhelmed with excitement, her own and for the child, she didn't want to risk missing the curtain by waiting in a long taxi line. Standing by the curb, she checked the map and weighed the idea of walking to Lincoln Center.
"Dianne, are we going to be late?" Amy asked.
"No, we're not," Dianne said, making up her mind. "I'll get us a cab."
Amy laughed, thrilled by the sight of her friend standing in the street, arm outstretched like a real New Yorker. Dianne wore a black velvet dress, a black cashmere cape, a string of pearls, and her grandmother-in-law's diamond and sapphire earrings: things she never wore at home at Gull Point. Her evening bag was ancient. Black satin, stiff with years spent on a closet shelf, it had come from a boutique in Essex, Connecticut.
"Oh, let me hail the cab," Amy said, dancing with delight, her arm flying up just like Dianne's. Her movement was sudden, and slipping on the snow, she grasped at Dianne's bag. The strap was very long; even with Dianne's arm raised, the bag swung just below her hip. Nearly losing her balance on the icy street, Dianne caught Amy and steadied them both.
They smiled, caught in a momentary embrace. Although Thanksgiving had just passed, Christmas lights glittered everywhere. Beneath its snowy veil, the city was enchanted. A Salvation Army band played "Silent Night." Bells jingled on passing horse-drawn carriages.
"I've never been anywhere like this," Amy said. Her enormous green eyes gazed into Dianne's with the rapture of being twelve, on such a wonderful adventure.
"I'm so glad you came with me," Dianne said.
"I wish Julia were here," Amy said.
Bowled over with affection for the girl, and missing her own daughter, Dianne didn't see the cab at first.
Spinning on the ice, the taxi clipped the bumper of a black Mercedes limousine. A snowplow and a sand truck drove by in the opposite direction, and the Yellow Cab caromed off the plow's blade, crushing its front end, shattering the windshield. Dianne lunged for Amy.
The violent ballet happened in slow motion. Pirouetting once, twice, the cab spun on the icy street. Dianne grabbed the child. Her low black boot fought for traction. Glass tinkled on the pavement. Onlookers screamed. Arms around Amy, Dianne tried to run. In the seconds it took to register what was happening, that she wasn't going to get out of the way fast enough, she wrapped her body around the child and tried to shield her from the impact.
The taxi struck the crowd. People flew up in the air together, tumbled apart, and landed with separate thuds. Skidding across the pavement, skin scraping and bones breaking, they slumped in shapeless heaps. For one long moment the city was silent. Traffic stopped. No one moved. The snow was bright with red blood. Down the block, horns began to blare. A far-off siren sounded. People closed in to help.
"They're dead!" someone cried.
"So much blood . . ."
"Don't move anyone, you might injure them worse."
"That little girl, did she move? Is she alive?"
Five people lay crumpled like broken toys, surrounded by people not knowing what to do. Two off-duty New York cops out for the evening with their wives saw the commotion from their car and stopped to help. One of them ran to the wrecked taxi. Leaning through the shattered window, he yanked at the door handle before stopping himself.
The driver was killed, his neck sliced through by a sheet of door metal. Even in death, the man reeked of whiskey. Shaking his head, the cop went to the injured pedestrians.
"Driver's dead," he said, crouching beside his friend, working on the girl.
"What about her?" he asked, pulling open Amy's coat to check her heartbeat.
With the child their first priority, the two policemen had their backs to Dianne. She lay facedown in the snow. Blood spread from her blond hair, her arm twisted beneath her at an impossible angle. Moving quickly, a stranger bent down beside her. He leaned over her head, touching the side of her neck as if in search of a pulse. No one saw him palm the single diamond earring he could reach, or pull the pearls from her throat.
By the time he grabbed her bag, a woman in the crowd noticed. The thief had the strap in his hand, easing it out from under the fallen woman's arm.
"Hey," the observer yelled. "What the hell are you doing?"
The thief yanked harder. He held the bag, tearing at the clasp. It opened, contents spilling into the snow. A comb, ballet tickets, a crystal perfume flacon, some papers, and a small green wallet. Snatching the wallet, the man dashed across the street, disappearing into the dark park.
From the Paperback edition.