Rhonda Johnson
April 18, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Mister Sandman

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Barbara Gowdy
publisher
Steerforth
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A+

At first glance, the Canarys in Mister Sandman seem to be a perfectly normal Toronto family, circa 1956. But a closer look reveals that Gordon, a myopic book editor, is heartbroken over a tall redheaded guy named Al Yothers. His teenage daughter has given birth to an illegitimate baby, which his wife, Doris, will pass off as their own (while she also makes passes at the Avon lady). Baby Joan (dropped on her head at birth) will grow into a tiny, mute savant who never leaves her closet, until she uses her musical genius to bring the Canary family secrets out into the open. Barbara Gowdy leavens her prodigious doses of satire and eccentricity with compassion, making this one of the strangest — and most heartwarming — paeans to family ties you’ll ever read. A+

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