by Sean Stewart
Review by Ann Cecil

Capsule Comment: warm, wry, character-driven tale of a woman coming to terms with her life, in spite of the negative drain of magical possession, clairvoyant notice of disasters, and the miserable heat in Houston Texas during the summer. Entertaining, very adult, recommended with some reservations.

A mockingbird never sings with its own voice, but renders the songs of other birds more sweetly than the original, according to this book. Toni Beauchamp (pronounced Beecham, we are commanded) tells us the story (in first person) of what happened after her mother's death. She starts the book as a 30ish single woman with a job as an actuary, her own apartment and prized independence from her family (Momma, Daddy and sister). After her mother's death, Toni becomes the unwilling (she's tricked into it) recipient of her mother's voodoo-like gods, characters that possess (in the worst sense) her without warning, whether she likes it or not. As almost a side effect of her mother's death, Toni gets pregnant, loses her job, and her independence.

Momma was a Mockingbird, in a magical sense; she sang with other voices,when she was possessed, and some of the 6 spirits that possessed her are vicious and cruel personalities. In the course of learning to live with her mother's unwanted, but unrejectable, gift, Toni reviews much of her strife-torn childhood, discovers secrets her mother kept, remakes the foundation of her own life, and learns some bitter and some sweet truths about her relationships with her family and friends and herself.

If this sounds like a coming-of-age story, that's because it is, but it has a flavor and texture all its own. The spirits that possess Toni have distinct and separate personalities, some of them quite as much characters in the book as Toni and her family. The heat and humidity in Houston are rendered so vividly, the city seems almost to be a character too - it's hard to believe the author is not only male, telling us very convincingly what it feels like to be a pregnant woman, but a Canadian!

As I said above, this is recommended, but with reservations. I suspect that the material is too adult for most 14 year olds, of either sex; they'd find it gross, or get the wrong message. It is also much more a character based story, though certainly not plotless. And the writing is strong, with a wry after-taste that might not appeal to all (more like good scotch than bourbon, thought bourbon is what the characters all drink).

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