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The Lost Book of Mala R.    by Rose MacDowell order for
Lost Book of Mala R.
by Rose MacDowell
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

It is so unusual to hear about a society that can live under the official radar in our country. But in The Lost Book of Mala R., author MacDowell provides fascinating information about a Romany girl who lived in the United States sixty years ago. These snippets leave us wishing for much more.

Instead, MacDowell has chosen to contrast Mala's story with those of three women who live in the present in a Southern California tract. Linda, who finds a tattered notebook at a garage sale, and Christine, to whom she gives it and who subsequently hands it over to Audrey, all have their own tragedies and disappointments to deal with, mostly involving husbands and extended family. Audrey is the one who decides to go beyond the notebook's strange notations and pressed plants to discover who Mala really is and whether any of her family remains.

The cover endnotes announce that all three women's lives are changed through their gradual understanding of Mala's history, but this reader is not convinced. It is really only Audrey who has an abiding interest in Mala. Even though the events in Christine's and Linda's lives are interesting and maybe worthy of a separate story, this book would have been more powerful if just Mala's and Audrey's lives had been the focus. Other readers may disagree. No matter, Mala's story is worth the effort.

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