Once Upon A Day

May 2006

By Lisa Tucker

Nineteen years ago, a famous man disappeared from Los Angeles, taking his two children, Dorothea and Jimmy, to a rocky, desolate corner of New Mexico where he raised them in complete isolation in a utopian "Sanctuary."

The children grew up with books and encyclopedias, records and a grand piano, but no television, computer, radio, or even a newspaper. Now Dorothea, at twenty-three, is leaving this place in search of her missing brother -- and venturing into the wide world for the first time.

Dorothea's search will turn into an odyssey of discovery, leading to the truth of her family's past and the terrifying day that changed her father forever. But Dorothea's journey will also introduce her to an unusual cast of characters, including a homeless girl from Missouri who becomes a jazz singer and a social worker whose mistake in judgment changes her best friend's life. And she will meet Stephen, a doctor turned cabdriver who, after suffering his own losses, has lost his ability to believe in a meaningful world. Together, they have a chance to make a discovery of a different kind: that though a heart can be broken by the tragic events of a day, a day can also bring a new chance at love and a deeper understanding of life's infinite possibilities.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Tucker's outstanding novel (after Shout Down the Moon) is as structurally dextrous as it is emotionally satisfying, boasting a chorus of extraordinary voices and assured parallel plot lines separated by four decades. In the present day, 23-year-old Dorothea has left her overprotective father's secluded 35-acre New Mexico estate, called the Sanctuary, where she and her brother, Jimmy, had been sheltered from current news and all modern-day innovations. Searching for her runaway brother in St. Louis, Dorothea meets a recently widowed doctor-turned-cabbie, who introduces her to the vibrant outside world he's been trying to escape.

A parallel tale set in the 1970s follows the budding romance between a successful film director and the waif who becomes his muse, his wife and the object of his obsessive control. The tour de force resolution that ties both stories together is a lyrically poignant reminder of the necessity of hope.

An exceptionally empathetic storyteller, Tucker has created a haunting, gripping novel that brims with graceful writing and fragile characters. This should be catnip for book clubs, whether they devour it as a page-turner about parenting and family or discuss its subtle meditations on fate and coincidence, wealth and poverty, freedom and safety, fairy tales and American dreams.

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