Picks and Pans Review: Goodbye, Earl

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

NOVEL

by Jo-Ann Mapson

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Mapson fans who have already seen cancer, miscarriages, a fatal car crash, murder and prison time might think that the author would have run out of disasters. Far from it. In Goodbye, Earl, the final book of the popular Bad Girl Creektrilogy, Mapson's quartet of friends are again beset by another full slate of tragedies—some old, some new, all compelling.

This sweet valentine to sisterhood tracks the overlapping lives of Beryl Anne, Nance, Ness and Phoebe, who bonded in the series' first book while working at a California farm but have since separated geographically and emotionally. Each character's narrative unfolds with the subtlety and patience of a blooming flower.

Of course, there are thorns. For Beryl Anne there is an AWOL boyfriend and an aneurysm; for Ness it's losing her gay husband to AIDS. But before the story becomes a prescription for Prozac, good fortune arrives: Phoebe falls in love, Nance becomes pregnant, Ness meets a heretofore unknown half brother. The women's engaging tales are told in an unvarnished style with just the right dose of emotion (no big weepy moments), and it's easy to get swept up in their highs and lows. Now that the drama is over, perhaps the women can finally get a break.

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