A poor inventor's dreams of electricity and love power Lawrence's new novel

New Fiction

April 23, 2006|By MICHAEL SHELDEN | MICHAEL SHELDEN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Lightning Keeper

Starling Lawrence

We Are All Welcome Here

Elizabeth Berg

Random House / 208 pages / $22.95

Of all the bizarre Southern Gothic novels ever written, none has a stranger premise than Elizabeth Berg's novel about a single mother in an iron lung who is raising three children - one of whom was born inside the contraption. When the kids misbehave, the mother disciplines them by biting their fingers. People in her hometown of Tupelo, Miss., try to tell Paige Dunn that she can't take care of a family, but with the help of a housekeeper and the children themselves, she manages to stay in her home and keep her children.

FOR THE RECORD - A Sunday book review of Elizabeth Berg's new novel, We Are All Welcome Here, incorrectly stated that the chief character, Paige Dunn, had three children. In the book, she has only one.
The Sun regrets the errors.

As implausible as this story sounds, it is true in its basic outlines. The author of several previous novels that feature strong mother-daughter relationships, Berg was contacted by a loyal reader who was raised by a mother in an iron lung. The reader wanted Berg to tell the family's story, and the novelist has obliged with this fictional version. It grows on you, especially after you stop shaking your head with disbelief.

Michael Shelden has written biographies of Cyril Connolly, George Orwell and Graham Greene and is a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph of London.

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