The heroine of this demanding but rewarding first novel is Joey Taylor, christened Joseph by her father, who took over the raising of his third daughter upon her birth. Joey is an adolescent when her father dies; shortly afterward, her mother leaves, and Joey, her sisters already grown, goes to live with her grandparents. Soon she meets reclusive Mr. Giffard, who gives her piano lessons, shows her movies featuring a young actor named Pal Adams and becomes a stand-in father figure. After high school graduation, Joey leaves Springfield, Ill., for L.A., where she hopes to find Pal and, by unlocking the secret of the movies and his relationship to Mr. Giffard, understand herself. Akins also tells the stories of a young male stripper, a chorus dancer and of Joey's mother, bringing them together in the resolution. The narrative, with its theme of betrayal, spins out like life itself: Joey can't gauge the significance of any event until she has moved beyond it. Thick with ideas and probing characterization, the novel achieves a compelling power with its unrelenting attention to detail. An impressive debut. (Nov.)
This is a disturbing, disjointed first novel of the coming-of-age variety that suffers from taking itself and its main characters too seriously. Abandoned by her mother, adolescent Joey Taylor strikes up a peculiar friendship with a lonely, embittered recluse living in a small house in the woods. Giffard gives her piano lessons and shows her segments of films featuring his son, a failed actor. Joey eventually wanders off to Los Angeles, trying to locate her mother, and meets Giffard's son in the process. The story line could charitably be called tenuous, Giffard and Joey are often unpleasant, and while the novel contains some involving, innovative writing, overall it is tedious. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.