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Clarke, Kathryn Ann. The breakable vow.

HarperCollins, Avon, 471p. c2004. 006-051821-9. $6.99. SA

The clear intent of this novel, elaborated through an appendix of factual information and advice, is to demonstrate how insidious domestic violence can be and to offer a model for escaping it. Sadly, the lethal combination of great length, wooden dialog, cardboard characters, and peculiar lapses of credible background material militates against the book finding the readers who need or want it. Annie first meets her husband-to-be when they are in middle school. When she becomes pregnant the summer before their senior year in high school, they decide to marry. The young family moves from Chicago to Texas, where Kevin has a basketball scholarship that includes married-student housing. Kevin's emotional and then physical abuse of Annie escalates from apparently innocent moodiness in their early relationship through a full-on assault requiring hospitalization by Christmas of their first year in Texas.

It's difficult to pinpoint the time period of the setting: the teens have ready, and apparently legal, access to alcohol; Annie--clearly a caring and loving mother--smokes; they listen to records, rather than a newer recorded music format. More difficult are the theological and biological gaffes: in spite of being a good Catholic, Annie associates the Immaculate Conception with Jesus' physical birth, rather than with the state of Mary's lack of original sin; Annie and Kevin's baby is walking and eating solid foods by the time she's six months old without these feats seeming remarkable to any onlooker. Annie's emotions are, indeed, very realistic, both in their development and expression. The cavalier manner in which her friends suggest and Annie decides to use a gun may be realistic, but a little heart-stopping if Annie is meant to be a model for learning to deal with her problems appropriately. If only the prose flowed smoothly, all these problems would not detract from the impact the story could have. However, with this added rhetorical issue, it's hard to believe readers will get through its 400plus pages to see how it's possible to get past a potentially deadly situation. Francisca Goldsmith, Teen Svcs., Berkeley P.L., Berkeley, CA
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Author:Goldsmith, Francisca
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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