Looking for Mary Gabriel
By Carole Lawrence
(Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover, 9780312285418, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 2002
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In the tradition of Carson McCullers, the author uses her own experience growing up with a mentally ill sister to pen this intensely moving novel. Set in the heart of the deep South, Looking for Mary Gabriel is the story of Bonita, a young girl who desperately wants her family to be normal, despite their strange behavior. Bonita's little sister, Mary, does not act like the other neighborhood kids, and Bonita vacillates between adoring her sister and hating her. Likewise, Bonita's mother is not exactly as warm and loving as one would hope a mother should be. And Bonita's father's motives are suspect to say the least. Almost inevitably, a tragic act of violence shatters the family forever.
As this exquisitely written novel opens, Bonita is preparing to bury her father and is looking back on a life that was shaped by secrets, madness, and lies. This is a novel that will be passed along from friend to friend, for Looking for Mary Gabriel captures perfectly the lonely young girl whose ultimate triumph over her unlucky past enriches all read of her.
Carole Lawrence was born in Alice, Texas, but spent her childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the setting for Looking for Mary Gabriel. She studied music from a very early age, and received a B.A. with a major in music from Louisiana State University. She later moved to New Orleans, where she taught piano. Carole has attended the bread loaf writers' conference, the Vermont Studio Colony, and Ragdale, an artists'colony in Lake Forest, Illinois. She earned a Master's degree from the MFA program for writers at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, North Carolina. Looking for Mary Gabriel is her first novel. Carole and her husband currently live in the Woodlands, Texas. They have one adult son.
"As a coming-of-ager, the tale is quietly compelling... an evocative portrayal of Baton Rouge childhood." --Kirkus Reviews