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
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).
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