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Once More a Family
by Paula Detmer Riggs
(Silh. Int.Mom #933, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-07933-8
****
Paula Detmer Riggs' latest Silhouette Intimate Moments is the story of a divorced couple who have never stopped loving each other, but must find a way to rebuild their love.

Grady Hardin must try a whole lot harder than others just to be average. Large and clumsy as a child, his reading difficulties could have created a sullen, dysfunctional child without his drive to achieve. Now a police officer, he has just finished testifying in a trial that sent a Russian Mafia defendant away for a long time.

Grady arrives home to find his wife, Victoria (Ria), unconscious and three-year-old son, Jimmy, missing. A note left by the kidnappers promises that they will never see their son again. Grady is determined to find Jimmy, and approaches the hunt with the same incredible drive and intensity that he has always used to achieve. He retraces and retraces every possibility, inevitably destroying their marriage.

Two and a half years after their divorce Ria has moved forward, establishing a Women's Center, which offers support groups for a myriad of problems. Grady has spent the years since the divorce contacting law enforcement agencies throughout the country. His assets have been nearly consumed by one wild goose chase after another. But one day, a child held in foster care after his parents have been arrested for drug smuggling, is indeed Jimmy.

Home schooled to keep the authorities from knowing about him and brainwashed by his kidnappers into believing his natural parents are evil, Jimmy's dyslexia is beginning to surface, further exacerbating his very nasty attitude. He doesn't even believe that Ria and Grady are his natural parents and, if indeed they are, then he hates them because they gave him away.

This becomes a story of a family's struggle to reunite. Grady's feelings of inadequacy for having failed Ria in preventing the kidnapping, and then not quickly finding Jimmy are consistent with the fact that the only reason he wanted the divorce was because he couldn't face her as a failure. These are deep seated and all tied up with being dyslexic.

Grady and Ria have never stopped loving each other, but each has so much baggage that the path is rocky. Their love for each other re-emerges only as old hurts and attitudes are slowly stripped away.

For anyone who has triumphed over dyslexia, or has a family member with dyslexia, this book will have a very special meaning. For the rest of us, it provides an insight into the psyche of those who struggle with this disability.

Riggs handles dyslexia with authority, and with compassion. Her dialogue is up to her usual high standards, her characters are extremely likeable, and their love story is portrayed with tenderness. The weakest spot for me is young Jimmy's path to recovery. I am not persuaded it is as easy as portrayed.

Once More a Family sustains the emotional impact that one expects to find in a Paula Detmer Riggs' novel. My hope is… that many will read this book, because so many people are affected by it.

--Thea Davis


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