Owen's Touch by Lee Magner
(Silh. Int. Mom. #891, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07891-9
***
Color me surprised! What a find…an amnesia story that has so many twists you totally forget you've read these symptoms before. Unhappily, the book is one of inconsistencies. It is sprinkled with imagery that is poignantly vivid and accompanied by crisp dialogue, but this is often smothered by the fact that most of the characters are not well defined.

On a West Virginia mountain, a semi careening out of control rounds a curve and runs a vehicle off the road. The car tumbles down the mountainside and finds temporary lodging between a tree stump and a rock. Owen Blackhart is first on the scene and rescues the lone female driver from the car before it starts its final journey into the ravine far below.

The passenger is airlifted to a nearby hospital and hovers near death. While waiting for the helicopter, she clings to life while clutching Owen's hand. Doctors are unable to elicit any response from her until Owen shows up to visit and she hears the sound of his voice. The machines indicate reaction and he is persuaded to stay and help.

That's not a problem for Owen since he is at loose ends. In his mid-thirties and recently retired, he has inherited a nearby home from a wealthy well-known philanthropist, and is just moving into the area.

His faithfulness pays off as the patient gradually regains consciousness, only to confront the new terror of repressed memory, or amnesia. Bit by bit, she starts reconstructing her life with the help of the media and Owen. The first plot surprise came for me when she was identified as Mary Ann by someone who had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous with her.

While the ultimate resolution of the story is very predictable, the twists and turns taken before arriving there are innovative and clever. The downside of this book is that Mary Ann is so vividly portrayed that everyone else feels like a cardboard cut out next to her. Rarely is the point of view as one sided as it is here.

Owen's mysterious background is rather methodically explored and set forth with very little impact on his relationship with Mary Ann. The sexual tension is well sustained, but the underlying romance on Owen's part lacks the necessary spark.

The book is interspersed with truly great strokes of brilliant writing, which sadly makes the mediocre parts even flatter. Balancing the two extremes, I'll call it an acceptable read.

--Thea Davis


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