THE MOTHER TONGUE
Bantam, Feb 2001, 6.99, 311 pp.
Gale Grayson returns to her hometown of Statlers Cross, Georgia, but quickly realizes neither she nor her daughter Katie Pru belongs in the reclusive town any longer. Gale traveled to England and married a poet who actually was a terrorist. Her spouse killed someone before committing suicide. Some years after having his child, she returned to the states to try to regain the sense of family that she lost in England.
Trouble begins in the lily-white town when the Nguyens, a Viet Namese family, move in. The locals are outraged when the Nguyens paint their new home a glossy blue because they feel that the newcomers disrespect their town. When three men die, including the son of the Nguyens, the town's suppressed hostility explodes with a Molotov Cocktail tossed through the Vietnamese family's window. Gale becomes a one-person detective in a town that already rejects her as one of them by taking the beleaguered family into her home.
THE MOTHER TONGUE is a harsh look at the prejudices and snobbery that is the cornerstone of some small towns. While not a cozy or an armchair mystery, the plot is a who-done-it from the town's perspective, a unique personalization of a place. The characters seem real, but it is the heroine and the Nguyens who brings the good, the bad, and the ugly out of everyone. Gale is flawed but the audience will admire her moral stand regardless of consequences. This novel makes both a social commentary and a statement of the times in what is an excellent series that hopefully will have the next book out soon.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner