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Delta Girls    by Gayle Brandeis order for
Delta Girls
by Gayle Brandeis
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Gayle Brandeis, author of the remarkable Self Storage, offers readers another quirky, enticing read in Delta Girls - a novel that has given me an entirely new appreciation of pears. Her lead this time is similar in that (like Flan of Self Storage) Izzy's life seems directed by serendipity, buffeted by the winds of fate.

A single mother of nine-year-old, homeschooled Quinn, Izzy lives a nomadic life, picking fruit for a living - from beefsteak tomatoes in Illinois to strawberries in Arkansas and pears at the Vieira Orchard in California's Sacramento River Delta. Mr. Vieira lets them use his houseboat and, though the work is exhausting, it soon feels like home. They enjoy the area's sense of community and when the son of the family, Ben Vieira, shows up, Izzy is immediately intrigued. She befriends Australian poet Abcde, who is 'A Bit Crazy'. But she worries when the plight of a whale and her calf attracts media attention to the Delta.

Izzy's and Quinn's story alternates with that of seventeen-year-old figure skater Karen. In extreme contrast to Izzy's almost random existence, every detail of Karen's life is controlled by her mother Deena. Deena picks as her daughter's pairs partner hot, sexy Nathan Main - he has the pizazz that Karen lacks. Deena has ambitions for the Nationals and the Olympics, and Nathan keeps Karen close, discouraging her from forming friendships with other skaters. Nathan is struggling with the incipient death of his drunkard of a father. Though he does things of which Karen disapproves, she's under his spell.

Both stories are gripping as they head towards catastrophe, but we wonder how they relate. When they come together - just like a grafted pear tree - Izzy finally learns to stop moving and to live in the moment. Delta Girls is a delightful read - enjoy it while munching a ripe pear in the sunshine.

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