Picks and Pans Review: Hula

updated 05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1994 01:00AM

By Lisa Shea

Memory is the driving force behind Shea's carefully observed first novel, narrated by the younger of two sisters; description is its strong point. The father is a war veteran with angry blue eyes and a metal plate in the back of his head that, at certain angles, is struck by sunlight "like signals from a flying saucer.'' The mother, a former dancer who once caught her husband's attention doing the hula at a luau, now feels trapped: "...her shoulders drop forward the way they used to when she would show us the shimmy. She starts to cry, a strangled off sound without any tears."

In such an atmosphere, two girls grow up without the proper measure of parental love. This frustration fosters between them a rapport that is channeled into a sexual fascination with bold neighborhood boys. Shea, a PEOPLE contributor, chooses to keep the beam of her novel tightly within the point of view of her 10-year-old narrator. The technique enables her to deliver original images that have a staggering immediacy but keeps the peculiar parents permanently in shadow. (Norton, $17.95)

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