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Waiting for Eugene    by Sallie Lowenstein order for
Waiting for Eugene
by Sallie Lowenstein
Order:  USA  Can
Lion Stone, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though this book took a while to arouse my interest, it was ultimately absorbing. Writing of a young artist, Sallie Lowenstein illustrates her novel with her own finely drawn sketches.

Twelve-year-old Sara Goldman's architect father Michel is haunted by the ghosts of his wartime experiences. He alternates between normality and behavior that is very disturbing to both Sara and her mother, Lea. At these times, he seems lost in a past, when his family were killed and he himself hidden in the darkness by a farmer, fearing discovery by soldiers at any time. He mentions many individuals, including a friend named Eugene. Sara wonders whether any of the people that her fathers recalls are real.

Sara is a talented artist. She loves the stories her father tells her, and sketches the people in them. When her mother forbids the storytelling, believing that it worsens her husband's condition, Sara is devastated. Luckily, she has a good friend next door - Willie, whose passion is music. They meet regularly in his tree house, where Sara shares her fear of what her father might do. Her Nana also gives wise advice - 'you should do what your heart tells you is right, because I don't think our heads can figure it out.'

The mystery of what really happened to Michel and who his ghosts were, pulls the reader through the story, which has no trite and easy resolution, but rather the acknowledgement that some hurts never fully heal. Though its characterization is at times rough, I recommend Waiting for Eugene as an unusual coming of age story, in which a young artist must cope with a parent's vulnerability.

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