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Part coming-of-age story and part slice of life, this is a literary novel about African-Americans in the rural South.
Set in rural Virginia during 1948, Miss Ophelia is a remarkable debut novel that explores the issues of abortion, illegitimacy, adultery, and skin color. Belly Anderson now in the autumn of her life, reminisces about the last summer of her childhood. A strong-willed and free-spirited eleven-year-old, she reluctantly leaves her home in rural Pharaoh and goes to Jamison to help her mean Aunt Rachel recover from surgery. Belly has two reasons for deciding to go to Jamison: She's left alone when her only friend becomes pregnant and is sent away, and she hopes that she'll be allowed to take piano lessons from her mother's childhood friend. While taking lessons from Miss Ophelia, she learns a terrible secret about her beloved teacher--a secret that forces Belly to grow up and learn what it really means to be an adult.
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Mary Burnett Smith has a master's degree in education from Temple University. Before her retirement in 1992, she taught inner-city junior and senior high school students in Philadelphia. She now lives outside the city with her husband.From Kirkus Reviews:
A gently affecting tale set in the apartheid-striated Virginia of 1948, where a young girl in a rural ``colored'' community learns something about the complexities of adult love. Eleven-year-old Belly (Isabel) lives with her bravely buoyant widowed mother Lizzie and her compassionate uncle Willie, who muffles his emotional wounds from the war with booze. Belly is a spikey, resilient kid who loves reading and banging on a neighbor's ancient piano, and who hates the prospect of going to the nearby town of Jamison to care for mean Aunt Rachel after her operation. She is deeply lonely there, but things look up when she begins taking piano lessons from Miss Ophelia, Lizzie's childhood friend, and days with gloomy Rachel are brightened some by her husband Avery, a real gentleman with a sense of fun. Little Jimmy next door is a pest who adores Belly and tags along, even to her lessons with Miss Ophelia. But Ophelia, meltingly kind, is a quiet goad to an adolescent conscience, and Belly learns better Jimmy-management. The three weeks Aunt Rachel is in the hospital are paradisiacal, as Miss Ophelia's music, lemonade, and the scent of summer flowers serve to bring together in companionship young and old alike, offering them a fragile shelter from the unpleasant facts of their existence: Avery (his odd marriage); Jimmy (abused by his parents); and Belly, beginning to emerge into a muddled awareness of adolescence. Lovely Miss Ophelia, though, has a secret, a shocker, having to do with a hidden love. Its revelation will help Belly to understand that there is a kind of triumph in commitment, sacrifice, and deep, true love. Smith has richly realized the ritual courtesies and dynamic village unity of an isolated community, and her people are as warmly familiar as good neighbors. An attractive first novel, then, told with a smooth pro confidence, and with the style and ambiance of postWW II popular fiction. (Literary Guild alternate; author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Book Description William Morrow. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0688152341 Ships promptly from Texas. Seller Inventory # Z0688152341ZN
Book Description William Morrow, 1997. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0688152341
Book Description William Morrow, 1997. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0688152341