Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley by Shaw J. Dallal

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Book Review: The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley by Shaw J. Dallal

By A. Clare Brandabur

Professor EmeritusEnglish Department, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana
TheSecretofRose-AnneRiley1-7-2014_edited-2This is the second novel by the author of, an important narrative of the Palestinian diaspora, Scattered Like Seeds. Shaw J. Dallal’s The Secret of Rose-Anne Riley is an altogether different type of novel, but like its predecessor, one that will appeal to a wide spectrum of interests. This novel is a fictional account of four generations of a melting-pot Irish American immigrant family whose first and second generations settled in various locations across the frontier and who started out working primarily as farmers in places as diverse as Illinois, Texas, and upstate-New York, though they rise to academic and business positions through hardwork and study.
The most intriguing and unusual feature of this story is the degree to which the memories and tragic personal history of a beloved grandmother, come to haunt –perhaps possess would be a better word–the consciousness of her grand-daughter Alexia. While her mother Carla pursues a career, Alexia and her twin brother John find themselves more and more in the care of their elderly grandmother, the Rose-Anne Rilley of the book’s title. Rose-Anne is the gentle Grandmother whose violent rape, covered up and papered over, continues to fester like a corrosive wound, finally emerging to darken the life of a beautiful girl in the family’s third generation . Her benevolent care endears her to both children, the twins Johnny and Alexia. Both children love Rose-Anne, but it is Alexia who becomes increasingly her confidante and companion during her final illness.

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