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Feather Crowns

Current Status:
In Season
Bobbie Ann Mason

We gave it an A-

FEATHER CROWNS Bobbie Ann Mason (HarperCollins, $23) Mason’s leisurely new novel is about Christie Wheeler, the Kentucky mother who gave birth to America’s first quintuplets in 1900. Gawkers flock to see the rarities, and when the infants die-perhaps from too much attention and handling-a local embalmer preserves the tiny corpses under glass ”like canning green beans,” to show at carnivals. Christie tries to find meaning in the extraordinary births and deaths: Were they a sign? Had she sinned? But such events are no larger than themselves, she finds, and as an old woman she comes to believe that even dying is simply dying: ”There might not even be pearly gates, but just those garage doors people have now that open straight up.” Mason’s slender plot is surrounded by massive detail and inner life, sometimes repetitious and slow. But for the patient reader, it’s the richest part of this fine novel. A- -D.A. Ball