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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Berg covers well-trod ground in WWII novel

BY JENNI LAIDMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Oh those Heaney sisters! What will become of them? Why can t Kitty think of anything to say when she writes to her boyfriend, who s off fighting in the Pacific? And why is Tish such a flirt? And how does she know so much about sex? And Louise, so practical and wise, writing page after page to her fiance, also off to war. Can such love last?

This is the story of three sisters held in the bosom of a large, loving, noisy, poor, Irish family, flopping about ardently in a downpour of cliches.

The drama is set during World War II, and hits all the familiar home front details: rationing, women doing war work, leg makeup, the sight of men in uniform, FDR s radio broadcasts, USO dances.

Besides the three sisters, the Heaney family includes Billy, the freckled rascal, Tommy, the sensitive saint and no-doubt future priest, and Binks (Binks!), the baby. While the boys are mere cardboard, mother and father are celluloid. You ve seen these characters in so many movies, the author didn t need to plump them with flesh and animate them with oxygen. So she didn t.

Margaret is the strong Irish mother, stern yet loving, the backbone of the family. Dad is wise and thoughtful, but when things get tough, he storms off to the tavern and ties one on like the good Irishman he is.

Through the first 100 pages of the book, I kept closing it and searching the cover for some indication of what age group the book was intended for. Somewhere, it should say, For girls of 10-14. But it does not.

This is written for adults. It just reads like kiddie lit. Elizabeth Berg writes a nice clean sentence, but those sentences fail to lift her plot beyond the simple declarative mode.

If you re looking for a beach read, and like old war movies, and you have no expectation of complexity, or characters who have even a normal dose of darkness, than this will be a painless read. You won t hate it.

It s not terrible. It s just not much. But see if you can buy it used somewhere. New, it s $24.95, and that s a high price for something you ve seen in old movies for free on many a Sunday afternoon.

Contact Jenni Laidman at jenni@theblade.com or 419-724-6507.



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