Book Review: 'Finding Casey'

Alan Cheuse reviews the southwest novel, Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

We have a review now of a new novel set in the American Southwest. It's called "Finding Casey" by Jo-Ann Mapson. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it's a messy, sprawling ensemble story and well worth the read.

ALAN CHEUSE: Chapter One, the book opens. Santa Fe, November 2005. Every house has a story to tell and over time will make whoever lives there a character. This opening goes on for a couple of pages, introducing a fixer-upper in Santa Fe and the newly married, middle-aged couple who buys it, all of it told by the resident ghost. I'll tell you, I bought the house too, ghost and all. The opening pages drew me in and never let me go.

I followed the story of Glory and her retired policeman husband, Joseph, and their delightful family with careful attention. Joseph is a great chef. He's trying to write a cookbook. Their adopted daughter - still mourning over her sister Casey, who disappeared in California some years before, she's studying archaeology at the university and she has a new boyfriend.

That are a lot of characters to follow, and then the novelist adds to the narrative what seems to be a subplot. It's about a somewhat dazed but determined young mother with a child burning with fever. I was a little dazed myself at that point, because that's when the story first gives off some subtle hints about how the past is going to overwhelm the present, and then some not so subtle revelations about whom this young mother happens to be.

The flighty coincidences at first threaten to topple the entire book, but somehow Mapson turns that flimsiness into a new bedrock of order for her delicious story.

BLOCK: That's Alan Cheuse reviewing Jo-Ann Mapson's new novel "Finding Casey." Alan's latest book is a trio of novellas called "Paradise."

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BLOCK: This is NPR.

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