Picks and Pans Review: Criminal Trespass

updated 06/24/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/24/1985 01:00AM

by Helen Hudson

In this warm, unexpectedly hopeful novel, Rannee Simms early on finds deprivation to be her way of life. Born into a desperately poor black family in the Deep South, she grows up during the Depression in a joyless household that includes an emotionally distant mother, an ineffectual father and a brood of siblings who sleep crowded together on a urine-soaked mattress. When she isn't switched at home for stealing an empty candy box, the skinny, lonely child is beaten at school for "being late and for being early and for sitting down at her desk instead of waiting in the hall." Rannee is always hungry: for love, for learning, for the forbidden figs that drop from the tree in the dusty yard. But a too early marriage and motherhood make it nearly impossible for her to find help. Victimized by whites, pummeled by a brutal husband and dogged by poverty, Rannee struggles alone against everything from the Klan to the welfare lady. Despite its Dickensian overtones, Criminal Trespass never descends into bathos; its tone is sure, its language fresh, and its control gives it real power. Criminal Trespass should bring Hudson (author of four other books) a wide reputation as a skillful storyteller. (Putnam, $17.95)

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