The Box Children, by Sharon Wyse
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People Magazine, August 6, 2002

Wyse signing books in Dallas, TX.
Wyse signing books in Dallas, TX.

By Michelle Tauber

If only Oprah hadn't canceled her book club, this debut novel surely would have made her face light up. Like many of Oprah's picks, this baleful, slight (186 page) take explores themes of childhood abuse and self-esteem through the eyes of a female narrator.

Growing up on a Texas farm, 11-year-old Lou Ann Campbell has a cruel, alcoholic mother and a father with a wandering eye. To keep her company, Lou Ann has five dolls--the "children" of the title--each one named after a baby her mother has miscarried. Despite the bleak subject matter, Wyse excels at capturing Lou Ann's hopeful spirit and precocious (but not overly so) voice. "it's true that our family is better than most," she observes. "We have a mother, a daddy and two children: one boy, one girl. We are all smart but not too smart for our own good." Wry and heartfelt, this is a quietly impressive debut. Bottom Line: Open this Box.