Oughton, Jerrie. Perfect Family. Houghton Mifflin, 2000. ISBN 0-395-98668-0. $15.00. 200 pp. A 7-9 FI Reviewed by Tom Wright Welcome O'Neal has heretofore only porch sat and talked about worldly things in the small North Carolinia town of Lily. The year 1955 begins to change all that for this fifteen-year-old as her ideal world starts to come apart. First, her sister stuns the family by running off to California to find her true love, movie star James Dean. Shortly thereafter, Welcome falls in love with a new boy, Nicholas Canton, who, her parents stress, is not one of our kind. Nonetheless, Welcome pursues the relationship, and it leads to heartbreak. Welcome ends up pregnant--not by Nicholas, but by an old friend who serves unwittingly as a one-night proxy for her true love. In the South of the 1950s, pregnant girls don't hang around. Welcome is sent off to live with her aunt and uncle to await the birth of her child. This well-written book gives us a picture of time, place and culture, as well as the well-documented heartache and poignancy of teen-age pregnancy. Oughton does not compromise the salient points to any sensational portrayal of Welcome's one and only sexual encounter. Instead, she portrays a sensitive young woman, her mistake, and the challenges that follow accordingly. This work begs comparison with Louise Plummer's recent Dance for Three. Both authors spend significant time developing family relationships as a way to give the reader a deeper insight into the protagonist. Both authors also carefully lead the characters and readers along the path that leads inevitably to the heart-wrenching decision of what is best for the newborn. This is a book worth reading and discussing.
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