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Late Bloomer    by Fern Michaels order for
Late Bloomer
by Fern Michaels
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

The incident, which took place in Indigo Valley at Judas Grove, was to haunt its participants for a long time to come. It took from ten-year-old Cady Jordan her innate spirit and resilience, as well as parts of her memory. It left thirteen-year-old bully Jeff King dead. Twenty years later, Cady still hasn't recovered her memory of the tragedy, but the inexplicable fear which crept into her heart that awful day still stifles her natural exuberance. When Cady finds out that her beloved grandmother, eccentric yesteryear movie star Lola, is ill, all the fear in the world can't stop her from rushing back to Indigo Valley. Once there, Cady is unable to refuse her aging and ailing (though still very sharp) grandmother's wishes. And so Lola and her two ancient companions begin an active campaign to restore Cady to her former animated self.

Not everyone is as overjoyed as Lola to have Cady back in Indigo Valley. Cady's playmates on the fateful day never revealed the truth about what really happened. Now that Cady is back, they're struck with guilt and indecision, and are worried sick that she'll regain her memory and reveal the truth they worked so hard to conceal for twenty long years. There's Pete who always had a crush on Cady, and is now working as Lola's attorney. And then there are the Hollister twins, each married and with troubles of their own. Boomer, once Jeff King's best friend, has taken up the reins as the new Police Chief of Indigo Valley. All the ingredients are in place for the truth to be revealed. It only needs someone to stir it all up, and the meddlesome Lola, along with her millions and minions, is ready to do the deed.

Fern Michaels is an acclaimed and accomplished author, with countless successful novels under her belt. She has a talent for telling even the simplest of tales with panache, and is skilled at wringing each drop of emotion from sympathetic characters. Such is the case with Late Bloomer. Each of the many characters comes to life through expressive portrayals. Readers are enchanted with the young and fiery Cady and are shocked to see her later dispirited self. They witness the long lasting impacts of that day in Judas Grove and see that the resulting web of lies, deceit and guilt has warped each and every person involved.

Cady's character is well developed with each facet shown in contrast, before and after the fateful day. Supporting players are equally well drawn. Lola and her geriatric companions are mostly responsible for lightening up the pages in their efforts to modernize Cady, their attempts at talking the hip lingo, their nostalgia, and their overall meddlesome approach. A poignant love story also develops gradually through the story. The author has a unique ability to look within the human spirit, something that readers can identify with and appreciate. All in all, Late Bloomer is Fern Michaels at her best.

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