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Between Friends

Family Affairs by Sandra Kitt
(Signet, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-19185-4
When David "Dak" Kinney was ten years old he watched helplessly as his stepfather killed his mother. After being unable to adjust to a series of foster homes, he came to live with his mother's friend Sylvia Patton. Sylvia took Dak into her home and into her heart, much to the chagrin of her children, Gayla and Mitchell.

Gayla and Mitchell Patton looked down their nose at Dak. Because of his love and respect for their mother, he endured their rejection and kept their secrets. Mitchell was gay. Gayla was sleeping with Graham Whelan, the oldest son of the white family Sylvia worked for.

As Family Affairs begins more than a dozen years later, David reluctantly has returned to New York to participate in a gallery exhibition. He has lived in upstate New York on a farm and in Attica Prison for a crime he did not commit.

In the interim, Gayla has become an artist of sorts who works for the gallery where David's work will be shown. While she is surprised to learn that the "Dak" she grew up with is an artist, Gayla is not amazed to discover he had served time in prison. He is not surprised to learn that she is the mother of a preteen daughter.

As the verbal sparring begins anew, David tells her who he was and is:

"I used to be very young and dumb once. Dak was a kid I made up when I wanted to show people how down and bad I was. Dak was somebody who was rough and angry all the time. But he grew up. And like the Bible says I put childish things aside. My name is David Alan Kinney. Period. Remember it."

As they spend time together promoting David's work, Gayla develops a grudging respect for him, although she still doesn't trust him. Gayla is involved in a "tasteful, satisfying and discreet" affair with a New York attorney who wants to marry her and provide a home for her daughter.

You can't go wrong with a Sandra Kitt novel. Family Affairs, her fourth novel under the Signet imprint, is no exception. There is something for everyone. Kitt's fans who like Between Friends, Significant Others and The Color of Love her stories of interracial relationships and racial identity will like this one. Those who prefer her romances with strong African-American couples Serenade, Suddenly and the novella, "Homecoming," won't be disappointed.

Sandra Kitt has put together an ensemble of characters who work well together. Their actions and reactions are honest. The author has painstakingly crafted her main characters Gayla and David to reflect their individual growth and development during their years they were apart.

There are family secrets and the inevitable past lurking behind the scenes. Or as the sage Sylvia Patton says "...you should have remembered that sometimes history returns to bite you in the butt."

A great deal of the novel's strength comes not from the dialogue and the action, but from the subtle nuances that are left unspoken, undefined. Kitt calls it a "metamorphosis." The main characters and the readers are able to share it together and it is a powerful thing.

No, you can't go wrong with a Sandra Kitt novel...

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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