The Fourth Child

A Daughter’s Place by C.J. Carmichael
(Harl. Superromance #956, $4.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-70956-0
You can go home again, but it isn’t easy. That’s the message of C.J. Carmichael’s new book. Eight years earlier, seventeen year old Libby Bateson had left her family’s farm in Chatsworth, Saskatchewan. Her life had fallen apart. Her mother and older brother had been killed in a car accident and she had been raped by the guy she had been seeing. When she discovered she was pregnant, her still grieving father had given her some money and put her on a bus to Toronto.

Without a high school diploma, Libby has had a difficult time raising her daughter Nicole. She works two jobs but has a hard time making ends meet. Moreover, Nicole is not doing well in the rough neighborhood where they live. Libby decides that she has to go back to Chatsworth, at least long enough to earn her diploma. When she calls her father, he hangs up on her. But despite this, Libby and Nicole leave Toronto behind.

When Libby arrives at her old home, she discovers that the once tidy farm house is a total shambles. Her father has become a cantankerous recluse who feuds constantly with his neighbors. Henry refuses to acknowledge his daughter’s presence but, undaunted, Libby moves in and begins to put the house to rights. She enrolls her daughter in school, finds a part-time job, and begins her school work. She also becomes reacquainted with her neighbor, Gibson Browning.

Gibson was her brother’s best friend and had always been a hero to young Libby. He had married a girl from a neighboring town, but she had died in a tragic accident, leaving him with a daughter Nicole’s age. Allie is the apple of her father’s eye, a charming if spoiled child. At first she takes Nicole under her wing, but soon becomes jealous of her new friend’s athletic ability. Their daughters’ problem threatens the growing relationship between Libby and Gibson.

Libby’s greatest fear is that what happened eight years ago will come out. Most of the locals believe that she left with another boyfriend and was, like so many other young people, was attracted to the big city. When she discovers that the man who had assaulted her still lives nearby, she becomes even more fearful. She knows that she will have to leave Chatsworth even though she is falling in love with Gib.

There is much to like about A Daughter’s Place. Libby is a survivor who is determined to take care of her daughter. She suffers when her daughter is hurt and any mother who has watched a child try to deal with the all too common unkindness of other children will feel for her. Also poignant is the gradual reconciliation between father and daughter, as Libby comes to understand her father’s inexplicable actions and Henry comes to forgive himself as she forgives him.

The romance between Libby and Gib is enjoyable if not exceptional. Gib’s prying about what happened eight years earlier causes problems as does Allie’s behavior. The conflict seems a bit forced, but I guess that Libby’s fear of her attacker is completely understandable.

Carmichael is especially good at recreating rural life. Her descriptions of the vagaries of contemporary farming show a real feeling for the land and its people. She also does kids well; Nicole, Allie and the others are completely real, not cute.

A Daughter’s Place kept me turning the pages, my definition of a four heart read. These were real people, people I could admire and like. Therefore, I liked this book.

--Jean Mason

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