By Margot Mifflin
Updated April 03, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST
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Cavedweller

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A sprawling, bighearted, Southern-fried slab of family drama by the author of ”Bastard Out of Carolina,” Dorothy Allison’s second novel, Cavedweller, is one of reconciliation. Rock singer Delia Byrd leaves Hollywood for Georgia, returning to the children she abandoned 10 years ago. Delia reclaims her girls by agreeing to nurse her terminally ill ex-husband on his deathbed in exchange for custody. Her eldest is a finger-wagging Christian, her middle child a gun-wielding ruffian, and her youngest, a budding lesbian ”cavedweller” who loves spelunking. Although Delia’s daughters ultimately forgive her betrayal, Allison’s readers may not: Walking away from an abusive husband is one thing; leaving your children in his hands is another. This narrative oversight casts a shadow over an otherwise charming, if sometimes meandering, book.B

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Cavedweller

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