Beginner's Luck - Laura Pedersen Finished for the first time on November 28th 2008.

Three aces (and five stars or more)!

Small-town Ohio. Sixteen-year-old Hallie Palmer, poker pro and high-school-drop-out escapes her life as the second child of eight in a christian family as she accepts a position as a live-in "yard-person" in the unconventional Stockton household, which consists of Judge Stockton, who - in the last stages of Alzheimer's - is being cared for
by his wife Olivia, an eccentric activist, atheist and successful writer of magazine pornography, his son Bernard, antique dealer, Bernhard's husband Gil, stage director at the local theater ... and Rocky, an alcoholic chimpanzee who is devoted to cocktail-mixing and the catholic church.

The coming-of-age-novel passes about a year of Hallie's life. During this time Hallie becomes a valued member of the household, sheds her image as the town's teenage delinquent, repairs the relationship with her parents and learns a lot about friendship, trust, love, life and tolerance and almost as much about culture, history, gardening, cooking, etiquette and religion.

Even if one (like me) does not share Ms. Olivia's belief of a godless universe, the warmth of the displayed relationships, the quirky characters, the comic situations, the puns and the misunderstandings cannot fail to touch and entertain.

I really love this book and have added the following two volumes to my Christmas wish-list.