Picks and Pans Review: Once Upon a Day

updated 04/17/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/2006 01:00AM

by Lisa Tucker
REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

CRITIC'S CHOICE

NOVEL

In Once Upon a Day, Tucker, the author of Shout Down the Moon, examines the perversity of love and the capricious nature of life's unfolding. Set in contemporary Missouri and New Mexico and in the Southern California of the '70s and '80s, her interwoven story of four members of a shattered family turns on an episode of violence that changes everyone.

Believing that their mother is dead, Dorothea, 23, and older brother Jimmy, 25, are kept in virtual lockdown by their eccentric father, a former film mogul, on an estate filled with books, music and luxury. But nothing can shield Jimmy from his violent nightmares or stop the anxiety attacks that plague Dorothea. Two years after Jimmy flies the coop to seek answers about his mother's death, his sister goes to find him when their father becomes ill.

Her search takes her to St. Louis, where she meets Stephen, a cab driver with a mysterious past. With him as her guide, she begins to uncover the truth about her brother and her mother. But Dorothea also learns a truth of a different sort: that although a life can be broken by events of a single day, a day can also bring the opportunity for redemption and forgiveness. In her latest, Tucker's graceful prose and well-crafted characters create a compelling odyssey of transfiguration.

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