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Oonah McFee.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1977, 1982.
335pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-7710-93144.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Phyllis James.

Volume 11 Number 2.
1983 March.

One cannot dismiss this book by saying it is a piece of autobiography showing the strong effect of childhood on adult life. Because of the powerful writing style, the enlivening use of images and metaphors, and the deep perception of the writer into the mind of a child as she grows to an adult, Sandbars became an award-winning best seller.

Well-placed flashbacks bring out lucid details of the child's closeness to parents and younger brother. We live with the family at their summer cottage and in the city of Ottawa during winter. We penetrate the childhood feelings, as, with their parents' love, they learn to understand the separation of father during a visit overseas. They question and accept the facts of birth and death and above all follow closely their parents' behaviour. We follow the mixed emotions of adolescence: "Teens were pushing her away out of her mother's life." The daughter struggles for father's approval of her first boy friend: "The heart is only at peace when loving is present."

It is the father's music that adds to family closeness and casts a spell on the young daughter who senses a mystery about her father, not solved until his death when she is an adult. As a younger adult, she is devastated at his leaving the family.

The tempo of events varies; at times, they pile up at amazing speed. Then, like a summer day in childhood, minute details continue to amble through pages of description, but the reader is never bored. We move from the 1920s through the Depression, culminating in the war years. Conversations become more intimate and subjective as the mother tries to tell of her fear of losing her son and never recovers from the shock of his death. Here the story ends abruptly leaving the reader wanting more from the author who expresses so simply poignant facts such as, "It's not what you give a child, it's what goes with the giving."

Highly recommended for any public library and especially for high school libraries.

Phyllis James, Qualicum Beach, BC.
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