From Publishers Weekly
Traces of Faulkner's A Rose for Emily and faint echoes of the horror film classic Psycho infuse this highly charged, eccentrically imaginative narrative by the author of Branches. The unusual tale comprises mainly dialogues between 11-year-old Jeliza-Rose and her four bodiless Barbie doll heads as she wanders about the isolated landscape of a house beside the railroad tracks in bleak rural Texas, interrupted periodically by the dynamite exploding in a nearby limestone quarry. Jeliza-Rose's mother is dead from a heroin overdose. The girl's father, 67-year-old Noah, a drug-addicted, has-been rock guitarist, leaves his wife's corpse on the bed in their sleazy L.A. apartment and takes his abused, disturbed daughter on a Greyhound bus to his long-dead mother's home. There Noah pins a map of Denmark on the wall and sits and stares trancelike for days on end. Jeliza-Rose soon encounters Dell, an eccentric neighbor woman who wears a beekeeper's veil and has a brain-damaged brother named Dickens. Precocious (and often pretentious) conversations between Jeliza-Rose and her Barbie heads (one is named Classique) serve to illumine the girl's disturbed state of mind and to further the surreal plot. As Jeliza-Rose's fantasy world collides with Dell's appalling secret, a grotesque history is revealed. This brutal portrait of a young girl's unbearable childhood requires immersion in her fevered imagination, and is relieved only at the end by Jeliza-Rose's brave effort to save herself from total breakdown. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Cullin returns to the rural Texas landscape of his Whompyjawed
(1999) and Branches
(p. 5), in a narrative that veers unevenly between mordant humor and a self-conscious quirkiness that too often undercuts his real gift for language and invention.The precocious and preternaturally observant adolescent narrator, Jeliza-Rose, is a classic American literary type reminiscent of Harper Lee's Scout and Carson McCullers's Frankie. After her mother dies of a drug overdose, Jeliza-Rose and her father move from Los Angeles to Texas, returning to What Rocks, the farm that belonged to her late grandmother. Her father, Noah-also a former junkie-is a gifted guitarist and songwriter who dreams of moving to Denmark. Why Denmark? Like much else here, the reason seems rooted less in a coherent narrative structure than in authorial whimsy. Nothing particularly pressing keeps father and daughter living at What Rocks, other than a lack of money and of will to go anywhere else. Jeliza-Rose is left to fend for herself, and, like children everywhere, she has a prodigious imagination that keeps her continually diverted while her neglectful father lapses into a terminal dreaminess. She befriends a lonely scarecrow of a man called Dickens, an eccentric woman, Dell, who likes to wander around wearing a beekeeper's protective mask, and a stuttering boy named Patrick. Jeliza-Rose also calls on a large collection of Barbie dolls for amusement. Cullin has a wonderful feel for the big and wide Texas landscape that Jeliza-Rose finds herself in. His descriptions of how a child can happily lose herself in the long grass, wildflowers, and mesquite are lyrical without being precious.There's not much of a story for Cullin to hang his sharply drawn, often poignant evocation of childhood on. Still, his feel for the painful awkwardness and sensitivity of adolescence is worth the trip. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.