THE BIG SHUFFLE
Laura Pedersen

 


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Ballantine Books, October 2006
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Hallie Palmer, the gambling whiz kid, is back. Hallie is playing strip poker at a frat party when Bernard, her former guardian, comes to find her. Bernard has come to take her home because her father is in the hospital with a heart attack. In short order, Hallie is yanked from the life of a fun loving college student to being in charge of her nine brothers and sisters. Her father has died and her mother is frozen in grief. While Hallie's mother is recuperating at Dalewood, the local looney bin, Hallie is reigning over the madhouse that was her family home.

Hallie is now in charge of the twin babies, Reggie & Roddy; Darlene, who has a adorable lisp; Francie, who's accident prone; Lillian; and twelve year old Teddy. Eric, the second oldest Palmer, is in college on a sports scholarship and Hallie insists he stay there. Then there is Louise, her beautiful but hopeless 16 year old sister. Louise drops out of high school and abandons Hallie -- running away to Boston to be with her boyfriend Brandt. Without the help of Bernard, the church ladies, Aunt Lala, Uncle Lenny, and Pastor Costello, the family would be separated and spread out to foster homes all over the county. Everything and everyone is counting on Hallie to hold them together.

THE BIG SHUFFLE brings some huge challenges to Hallie Palmer. The happy-go-lucky gambler has her whole world turned on its head. In this installment she learns how to meet tragedy head-on and discovers what she is made of. Her family drama isn't sad, though, it's more like a circus with the entry and exit of all the varied and interesting characters.

Laura Pedersen has a gift for creating characters. Uncle Lenny, the Ancient Mariner sailor, and Aunt Lala, the ditsy old lady, are so appealing. Pastor Costello's private party poker circle makes an appearance. And Bernard and Gil, the gay partners, have adopted two Chinese orphans. The big cast of characters keeps things all stirred up. It's all a fascinating backdrop for Hallie's growth from girlhood to adulthood.

THE BIG SHUFFLE is the third book in the Hallie Palmer Series which began with BEGINNER'S LUCK (2003), followed by HEART'S DESIRE (2005).

Feb 2007

 

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