Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Big Shuffle - Laura Pedersen



The Big Shuffle
Laura Pedersen
Ballantine Books

Fiction

Hallie Palmer, introduced in BEGINNER’S LUCK (1/03) and HEART’S DESIRE (7/05) has done a lot of growing up since leaving her chaotic family at the age of sixteen. She was lucky enough to land with the Stockton family, an eccentric clan, who took over guardianship of this precocious card sharp. Now a sophomore in college, Hallie has to face some very serious issues with her biological family. Her life is no longer her own when her father’s death triggers a nervous breakdown in her mother and Hallie is left to care for her nine younger siblings.

There are plenty of people in the community who lend a hand, but the majority of the burden falls on Hallie, who is used to being responsible only for herself. One of her sisters runs away, and she can’t tell one twin baby brother from another. This is not what she envisioned for herself at this point. Even breaking up with her boyfriend takes a back seat to everyday household concerns. And, when her mother is able to come home, the two women, uneasy strangers, struggle to forge a new bond.

While reading the first two novels in this series would be helpful, to watch Hallie’s growth over time, it’s not strictly necessary. The author does a nice job of providing the essential bits of background. Every woman knows that the relationship with her mother changes profoundly in the years between the teens and the ‘adult’ twenties. This change is charted here in a very realistic way. Hallie is neither a sainted martyr to her family nor a completely resentful sloth. She is a three-dimensional individual, moving from moment to moment and emotion to emotion. Her customary wit is still present, even when things are not looking good. This is an excellent portrait of one family’s journey through a time of crisis; and of coming out on the other side.

Rating: 8 1/2
November 2006
ISBN# 0-345-47956-4 (trade paperback)

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