Picks and Pans Review: Catching Up With...
What hath Oprah wrought? So predictable are the diva of discussion's literary preferences that one suspects Gwyn Hyman Rubio crafted this 1998 debut novel just to please Ms. Winfrey, who obligingly tapped it for Oprah's Book Club. Female protagonist struggling for self-acceptance? Check. Painful, illuminating journey to independent womanhood? Check. Triumphant emotional climax and spiritual closure? Check and check. Icy Sparks is an orphan growing up in rural Kentucky in the 1950s. Like her self-consciously quirky name, Icy is a paradox: a sweet, yellow-haired girl who can unexpectedly become "mean as a striped snake." In fact, the tics and curses that she tries to suppress are symptoms of Tourette's syndrome, a disorder that goes undiagnosed throughout Icy's trying adolescence. The relationship between Icy and her patient grandparents is nicely understated, but the book's overcooked symbolism grows tiresome. By the time Icy declares, "Ain't one of us perfect, but still the good Lord loves us," you'll wish Winfrey would pick a juicy whodunit next time. (Penguin, $13.95)
Bottom Line: Lacks spark