When Madeline Was Young.

Position:Book review

*** 1/2 When Madeline Was Young By Jane Hamilton

Forever young.

Soon after her marriage in the late 1940s, Madeline Maciver suffers a brutal brain injury while on a bike ride with her husband Aaron. The accident leaves her with the mental capacity of a child. Aaron acts with astonishing conscience, keeping Madeline in his care even as he marries her caretaker Julia, and the two raise their own children with the belief that Madeline, who continues to live with them, is their older sister. In his later years, their son Mac is prompted by the death of a family member to disentangle the emotional complexity of his parents' saintly decision.

Doubleday. 288 pages. $22.95. ISBN: 0385516711

Washington Post **** 1/2

"Jane Hamilton has created a story that goes to the heart of the mystery of caritas, and she has revealed in the apparently flat line of a good life a vital and absorbing human drama.... [It is] her most distinguished work so far, a story in which tragedy is balanced brilliantly against the consolations and pleasures of ordinary life." CARRIE BROWN

Boston Globe ****

"It's a quiet novel more given to gentle realizations than shattering epiphanies. Tragedy, always dramatic and capricious in Hamilton's work, remains at the center here as well. But its presence is the catalyst for what becomes a study in grace and compassion." RENEE GRAHAM

Charlotte Observer ****

"Hamilton's writing is top-notch, and her tale woos the reader slowly, drawing us in with sly humor and emotional heft." LEE RHODES

Minneapolis Star-Tribune ****

"Hamilton transforms Madeline from a figure who strains credulity into a touchstone for many truths of family life: how what happens to one of its members can shadow the future for all, and how blindly we proceed through the present, seeing events clearly only when they become the past." ELLEN EMRY HELTZEL

Boston Globe *** 1/2

"Hamilton has [not] lost her touch for conveying the complexities of family life or for engaging the bruised dignity of her characters. Yet compared with the staggering calamities in her earlier bestsellers A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth, this story can seem...

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