Picks and Pans Review: Opal on Dry Ground

updated 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sandra Scofield

The undisputed doyenne of three generations of West Texas women all living under the same roof, Opal Duffy is weary, and no wonder. Pushing 60, married to her third husband, Russell, Opal welcomes her divorced daughters, Clancy and Joy, along with Joy's surly adolescent child, Heather, into Russell's four-bedroom house and takes responsibility for all of them.

Opal worries about her daughters' health, their boyfriends, their finances, their broken marriages (five between the two) and their futures, with little regard for her own life and happiness. Even when Russell gets fed up and leaves to work on a pipeline in Nigeria, she stays behind to serve her family.

Sandra Scofield, author of four novels and winner of an American Book Award for Beyond Deserving, presents a fine picture of the mother-daughter bond. But while Opal's nurturing is heartfelt and believable, the story is stagnant and familiar. The women have had too many husbands, too little money and education and no interests to sustain them. Only Heather enlivens the pages with her teenage rebellion and her observations of Clancy, Joy and Opal: "She doesn't see how you can live whole lives as bad as theirs." (Villard, $20)

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