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Australian actor and young-adult writer Laguna (Too Loud Lily) delivers a grim, creepy, powerful first-person narrative about a direly neglected child whose knowledge of the world is severely circumscribed by her fanatically Christian parents. Told entirely in the solipsistic point of view of Hester, the only child of paranoid, abusive parents, the novel pursues the girl's deeply troubling relationship with them and their bizarre world view. Begrudged her difficult birth, Hester is routinely hung, Christ-like, from her arms in the basement by her depressed mother, who sequesters the young girl in their shared cabin, her only book The Abridged Picture Bible. Hester's brief foray to school, thanks to the intervention of the town authorities, proves eye-opening (she makes her first friend, Mary), but ultimately disastrous. Molested by her father through her adolescence, Hester is finally institutionalized when her parents can no longer control her. Laguna's rendering of Hester's fragile mental state is sympathetic and touching, especially through imagined dialogue with inanimate objects and in the friendship Hester makes with Mary, and then in the institution, with Norma. A truly haunting tale that readers won't soon forget, from a compelling, original voice. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.