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Alice Story

St. John's (Nfld.), Breakwater, 1989. 192pp, paper, $14.95
ISBN 0-920911-63-3. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Linda Holeman.

Volume 18 Number 3
1990 May

Alice Story calls Phoebs a picaresque novel, and Phoebe Beebe is very much a picaroon or adventurer.

Orphaned at seven, Phoebe is taken in by a spinster aunt and brought up in the stifling, conservative world of small­town Ontario in the 1950s. With her aunt's sudden demise, Phoebe sets out alone for Toronto at the tender age of fifteen. By the age of eighteen, Phoebe, raped and pregnant, leaves Toronto for the exciting, cosmopolitan world of Montreal, where she is rescued by Jacques. Like everyone else, he falls in love with Phoebe's childish faith and ability to see the bright side of everyone and everything. Phoebe suffers a miscarriage; Jacques marries her. Tragedy continues to follow Phoebe, and her new husband is accidentally killed on their honeymoon in the Rockies.

Although this novel is classified as Alice Story's first adult novel, I would call it a fairy-tale for teenagers. Phoebe's unbelievable bad luck, coupled with her unbelievable ability to endure any event with a cheery "heigh-ho," makes the story... unbelievable.

All of Phoebe's mind-numbing experiences - the death of family members closest to her, homelessness, rape, pregnancy, miscarriage, widowhood - are mildly and briefly narrated with no graphic detail. On the positive side, the writing is light and fresh. There are pleasing, accurate descriptions of the cities and countrysides where Phoebe travels and lives. The wide range of characters that influence Phoebe's life are depicted with humour and an eye for human idiosyncrasies.

In light of the horrors of life on the streets facing runaways today, however, Phoebs must be taken with a grain of salt.

Linda Holeman, Winnipeg, Man.
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