A Tree Grows in Los Altos

A Review of The Lyre and the Lambs by Sydney Avey, published by HopeSpringsBooks, 2014.

As a writer myself, I often found myself envying Avey’s sparkling prose, her scintillating wit, and her sharp-edged knowledge of the human condition. She has managed to take the protagonist, Dee, an angry, frustrated war widow whom we met in the first book, and develop her into a full-blooded local heroine, who steers us through the headwaters of an amazingly complex cast of characters.

Book One explores the mysterious triangle of Leora, a dying grandmother, her daughter Dee, and her granddaughter Valerie, with whom she shared a secret about their ancestry. This small nexus of a California family soon explodes, divides, and multiplies into the Spanish, Basque, and Greek cultures. Avey moves us back and forth between Dee and Valerie’s psyches as their relationship resolves into health and mutual respect.

Book Two is written from Dee’s deeply personal point of view, and we come to know her intimately. This is where Avey’s gifts of humorous comebacks, her intelligent perceptions of the Sixties’ social morass, her own honest soul-searching, and her growing faith come into full-blown literary maturity.

Avey deftly uses the image of living together in a glass house with all its vulnerability as a focal point to demonstrate the openness we associate with the Sixties. The neighborhood onlookers and the stone throwers have their say, and their day in court, but are left stuck in the mud of their own unwillingness to embrace the changing times.

As we often have observed, marching to a different drum beat invites suspicion, conflict, and turmoil when traditional social mores are challenged, and spiritual renewal deepens. We watch how Dee’s courageous step of sharing her life in marriage, and sharing her once jealously guarded space with her daughter and family opens doors of ministry to others.

Dee’s once divided and fragile family tree has now blossomed into beauty and strength, and its branches are wide enough to harbor those who are struggling to find their way.

This is a wonderful read, and we hope the author continues to develop all the gifts she has abundantly displayed here.


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