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Love comes up against obsession in Gowdy's seventh novel (following The Romantic), and the results are at times chilling, but not always believable. Single mother Celia works two jobs and is often forced to bring nine-year-old Rachel along to her nighttime gigs at a piano bar. Much to Celia's dismay, men are already drawn to biracial Rachel's exotic beauty, and she reluctantly turns down a lucrative modeling contract for the girl. Yet she's unaware that appliance repairman Ron Clarkson has an unhealthy fascination with Rachel that's escalating. Convinced that Celia is not a worthy parent for Rachel, Ron abducts the girl, soon involving his needy girlfriend, Nancy, and igniting an extensive investigation. Although set in Toronto's urban Cabbagetown neighborhood, the atmosphere feels smalltown insular and relies a bit too much on coincidental acquaintances to feel like a city setting. The kidnap plot is, for Gowdy, surprisingly conventional, but frequent glimpses into the childhoods of Ron, Nancy and Celia add depth, revealing the characters' motivations and inviting contemplation of what constitutes appropriate love toward a child. Ron remains too warped to be remotely sympathetic; more compelling are Nancy's conflicted loyalties and Celia's occasional brutal reflections on the sometimes greedy, possessive love between parent and child—a love not unlike obsession. (Apr.)
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Here the imaginative Gowdy (Mister Sandman, 1997) reins in her surrealistic side in the service of a more conventional plot, and the result makes for absorbing reading. Single mother Celia Fox works two jobs but is plagued by money problems; however, she never considers her daughter anything less than a blessing. She still feels a sense of amazement that the beautiful nine-year-old Rachel, who has received the attention of a local modeling agency, is really hers. But then Rachel draws the admiration of Ron, a middle-aged appliance repairman who becomes convinced that her mother is neglecting her. During a blackout, he abducts her and locks her in a room he has constructed just for her, complete with a plasma TV and a custom-made dollhouse. As the police hunt for Rachel intensifies, so do the emotions of the involved parties. Even Gowdy's secondary characters are memorable, especially Celia's kindhearted, intellectual landlord and Ron's vulnerable, ex-addict girlfriend. But her true feat is the sympathetic portrayal of Ron himself, a man who seems painfully unaware of his own dark impulses. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.