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When Madeline Was Young    by Jane Hamilton order for
When Madeline Was Young
by Jane Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

When Madeline Was Young is a great family chronicle essentially covering two periods in the life of the protagonist, Mac Maciver, first as a boy in the 50's and then as a father of three girls in the present time.

The novel switches time from the past to the present throughout the story, which in some books can be quite irritating. However, in this one each time frame is equally enjoyable and each sequence adds its own richness to the narrative. The later period interestingly adds a different perspective to the boyhood experiences, both told in a first person narrative.

The Madeline of the title is like a sister to Mac but in fact, is his father's first wife. She suffered brain damage from a bicycle accident and is left with the intellectual capability of a six year old. She then lives with her ex-husband, Mac's mother (father's second wife), Mac and Mac's sister. It's an unusual circumstance that helps drive some of the more interesting situations in the novel.

The story covers sixty years to the present time, and an interesting side bar is the author's insights, as told by Mac's mother and her sister-in-law, into the Vietnam War from both a Republican/Democrat and pacifist/soldier perspective.

The book's strength lies in the variety of intimate and interesting family incidents that merge to form strong characters, who linger with the reader long after the story has been completed.

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