By Tina Jordan
Updated May 12, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Though she grew up in the upper classes of white, civil-war-ravaged Rhodesia in the 1960s and ’70s, Wendy Kann endured a tumultuous childhood: Her mother was an alcoholic; her father died in a car crash; and she and her sisters were largely raised by their mercurial stepmother, Gail. The long, meandering descriptions of her African upbringing are evocative — stunning, even — but Casting With a Fragile Thread abruptly loses its punch when Kann moves to America as an adult. It’s a problem compounded by her enduring sense of privilege (”I only discovered that shoes needed to be polished when I was about thirty”). Even so, I kept returning to the compelling, often brutal descriptions of her Rhodesian girlhood.

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