Spirited Away

Graham Joyce's Vine Land

Fairy play: The Facts of Life author Graham Joyce
photo: Sophia Quach
Fairy play: The Facts of Life author Graham Joyce

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The Facts of Life
By Graham Joyce
Atria, 294 pp., $24
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The tug-of-war between science and magic, reason and unreason, is a running theme in most of Joyce's books, but it rarely overpowers The Facts of Life. The author crams an enormous amount of life and intelligence into this novel without ever losing momentum. Each of the Vine women reverberates on the page, going about her business, be it mundane or ethereal. Joyce takes a solid, conventional page-turner bustling with well-realized characters and douses it with a stream of figments and doubts. Is the girls' dad—who resembles Elizabeth Bennett's taciturn father in Pride and Prejudice—dead or just very quiet? How did Cassie get pregnant, and why was she flitting through the streets of Coventry the night of the big bombing? And what do Frank's psychic friends have in store for him? Joyce's style is delectably ambiguous to the very end. In Joyce-land, you can never be sure who's a kook and who's a prophet.

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