Books: Study in Living Colors

In the engaging Half a Heart, Rosellen Brown reunites a mother with the daughter she gave up

Rosellen Brown's novels characteristically lob bombshells into well-ordered domestic lives and then calmly assess the ensuing damage. In Tender Mercies (1978), a husband's reckless bravado during a boating trip leads to an accident that leaves his wife paralyzed. Civil Wars (1984) portrays a liberal married couple in Mississippi who receive custody of the two children of Klan-supporting, racist in-laws, killed in a car crash. In Before and After (1992), well-to-do parents discover that their son has murdered his girlfriend. In each book, the page-turning question becomes, Then what?

Another, although comparatively muted explosion gets the plot moving in Brown's fifth novel,...

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