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The Dwelling Place

ISBN 0-7642-2926-5

By Elizabeth Musser
Review by: Michelle Humphrey


“It wasn’t just selfishness that kept me away from [my family]. It was self-preservation,” muses twenty-year-old Ellie Bartholomew, fresh out of rehab and self-exiled from her religious family – particularly her mother, Mary – whom she blames for a childhood accident that leaves Ellie’s face disfigured. When mother and daughter hole up in their beach house (where Mary recovers from breast cancer and Ellie serves as a quasi-willing nurse), the young woman learns the intimate ins and outs of her mother’s life, especially Mary’s personal struggles with her husband, her best friend and God.

In this faith-based novel, anecdotal dialogue is all, and plot a decisively lesser element. Author Elizabeth Musser creates a slew of potentially punchy characters (a mentally-challenged computer genius who distrusts Ellie’s family; a great-grandmother with a past as a Parisian prostitute), but these, like Ellie’s rocky relationship with her mother, never venture far from tried-and-true formulas and Musser fails to capture mother-daughter tensions with nuance, irony or verve.

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