This haunting novel, set in the fictive Midwestern town of Harmony, is infused with a dark, edgy presence that occasionally suggests soap opera. Clodine Wheeler is the bemused narrator who strings together brilliant beads of descriptive phrases as she sorts through her memories. She first saw fey child-mother Lilly Duke through the glassy, shifting wall of a waterfall shortly after Lilly came to live in a lakeside shack owned by the father of her baby, a convicted murderer. These pages are rife with painful, gothic blows: Clo's husband, Galen, witnessed his father kill his mother in a fight, then hang himself with one of her ``lovely, flowered silk scarves''; Galen obsessively loves and systematically abuses Clo, who seeks her own destruction by wooing Lilly with such trinkets as a rusted bike and a mongrel dog. Chehak ( Story of Annie D. ) skillfully depicts small-town meanness and ironic generosity. Although set in the present, her mesmerizing tale has classic resonances. When Galen and Lilly inevitably connect, biblical retribution hangs heavy over all. (Oct.)
Harmony is a compelling, well-crafted novel told in a series of disjointed flashbacks by Clodine Wheeler, forced by a series of deaths to examine her life. The reader learns early on that Clodine's abusive husband is dead and soon begins to wonder how much responsibility she bears for his death. Another woman suddenly on her own is the childlike Lilly Duke; the father of her baby is awaiting execution for murder. Lilly seeks sanctuary in Clodine's hometown, the upper-Midwest resort of Harmony, where the baby drowns under mysterious circumstances. While examining the patterns of her behavior and the way that Lilly's life mirrors her own, Clodine begins to take responsibility for her actions and their effect on others. Vivid imagery brings objects and actions to life, and the characters are real and multidimensional in this beautifully written novel by the author of Story of Annie D. (Houghton, 1989). Highly recommended for public libraries and large college fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/90.-- Judy Mimken, Cardinal Stritch Coll., Milwaukee, Wis.