Picks and Pans Review: Beauty Before Comfort

updated 05/12/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/2003 01:00AM

by Allison Glock

Critic's Choice
STARS "1"

Behold Aneita Jean Blair, born 1920 in West Virginia, where "hurt was everywhere." This redheaded spitfire, who died in 2002, was "built like Miss America," harbored ambitions beyond the factory floor and made way too many men weak in the knees. Jeannie knew that "beauty meant nothing less than freedom," so she cultivated her own.

In this affectionate time capsule of a tale, her granddaughter Allison Glock chronicles Jeannie's history, in part by digging through old scrap-books and photos. Glock's writing is smart and swift, making Jeannie's vibrancy leap off the page. Desirability was Jeannie's defining trait—she invested so little emotion in her endless suitors that she wore one man's gift, a rhinestone pin, on a date with another. She ended up marrying the man who loved her the most and learned that "decisions can be like car accidents, sudden and full of consequence." Glock, in her first book, proves a wise and effortless storyteller. (Knopf, $20)

BOTTOM LINE: A beautiful find

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