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The Orphan Game

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Ann Darby’s thoughtful first novel The Orphan Game, set in a California town in the ’60s, nicely evokes an era that now seems almost Victorian, a time when mothers told their daughters, ”You’re in love if ironing his shirts excites you.” It’s a haunting picture of a family mired in the mistakes and disappointments of the past, and the portrait of Maggie’s father, a salesman who could give Willy Loman lessons in denial, is particularly arresting. But the simmering tension between Maggie and her dissatisfied mother (a seamstress who looks back at her life and says, ”I just feel like I should rip everything out and start over again”) is undercut by the jarring changes in point of view, a literary maneuver that doesn’t enhance character or motivation. B

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