FLORA. By Gail Godwin. Bloomsbury. 278 pages. $26.
Helen Anstruther is about as self-centered as a 10-year-old can be.
Every part of this first-person novel is about Helen despite the title. It’s the end of World War II, her grandmother has died; her father is spending the summer working at the Oak Ridge, Tenn., atomic bomb-building site; her long-dead mother’s cousin, Flora Waring, has come from Alabama to care for her; one of her friends contracts polio and another moves away, yet everything is about Helen.
For a novel that’s supposed to show how and why Flora had such a life-altering impact on Helen, there’s little personal growth. Helen is stubbornly the same despite trials and the good and bad examples of those around her.
“Flora” is set in a dramatic time in U.S. history and tells of dramatic events in a young girl’s life, yet this story itself has little drama, no subtly learned lessons and no real reason to be read.
Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.