Nora Potts is a young girl growing up in 1930s Mid-America. She’s the only girl in a family of three small boys. Their mother dies suddenly and their father, Bill, a traveling salesman, relies on relatives to help raise the kids. It’s confusing for them but indulgent. Then Bill remarries and everything goes kaflooey. Lil Delaney is charming with a delightful laugh. But she has an ungovernable temper and throws fits. The kids scatter like scared rabbits, coming back at nightfall when the house is quiet and their father has cleaned up the broken dishes. Nora does battle on another front, too: at her parochial school dominated by the charming termagant, Sister Mary Patrick. It’s said of Sister that her “mere glance can stop sin in its tracks.” And her eye is a lot on Nora. The haps and mishaps of the Potts family and life at school go on for a decade, to the start of World War II. Life in the nineteen-thirties is vividly depicted: depression era cooking, “colored” maids living in backyard servants’ quarters, hobos wandering the land, the long presidency of FDR, and the inner workings of a Catholic school and church run by a stern Monsignor and a beguiling young priest from Ireland. “A Small Flame” to is akin to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Same time period, middle America, and a heroine as endearing and scrappy as Scout Finch.
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