A decorated Air Force officer and former POW returns from Vietnam alive but faces a dishonorable discharge and a two-year prison term. By the author of Violence. National ad/promo. Tour.
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Like most of Bausch's work (Violence, 1992, etc.), his sixth novel--about a family's fate when its Air Force father is imprisoned for two years--has its pleasures, but the material is stretched far too thin, and, though moving at times, the whole thing is far too shapeless. Thomas Boudreaux relates this fictional memoir from the vantage point of his 40s; he lives alone in a beach house in Virginia, runs a used-book store, and tells us his sister is a Mormon. The style is leisurely and elegiac (``I was married, but that has been over for some time now...''), with the bulk of the narrative set in 1967, when Thomas's father--a former POW--is caught stealing an electric typewriter and is dishonorably discharged, then thrown into prison in Wyoming. Wife Connie, North Dakotan by birth, decides against the West and moves with son Thomas and daughter Lisa to Virginia. Aunt Elaine from North Dakota visits, but nothing sways Connie until she decides abruptly to move the family to Wyoming to be near the father. On the train, Connie meets Penny Holt, a lost soul who, much later, arrives without warning in Wyoming. Meanwhile, the father, who was beaten in prison, is released and tries to join the family at the boardinghouse where they live with Penny Holt and a couple of odd ducks. On the day that Robert Kennedy is shot, the father beats up Penny and smacks Thomas, releasing the narrative tension and allowing Thomas to sum up: the family, spent of passion, moves to Minot. Thomas joins the Air Force, goes to Vietnam and returns, to describe his father's grave and his mother's small-town life. The story here, about people victimized by circumstances, is finally more evasive than climactic. Bausch's m‚tier, increasingly, seems to be not the long novel but the short story, where he can shape and prune to incisive effect. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
The reader takes possession of this flawlessly composed novel the way one walks through a house that, while never seen before, is immediately familiar and utterly one's own. Thomas Boudreaux, divorced proprietor of a used-book store in Virginia, writes about his family in 1967, when he was 17 and his father Daniel, an Air Force career man and Vietnam hero, was caught stealing a typewriter from his Maryland base and sentenced to two years of hard labor in Wilson Creek, Wyo. Daniel's surprising act and rapid conviction pitch his family--his wife Connie, Thomas and eight-year-old Lisa--into nearly overwhelming uncertainty. After they move off the base and into a new town, Connie decides that they must go to Wilson Creek. On the train ride across country, they are befriended by young Penny Holt. Thomas's initial interest in Penny becomes obsessive after she moves into their Wilson Creek boarding house, where she will play a central role in the family's drama. With perfectly modulated pitch, Bausch ( The Fireman's Wife and Other Stories ; Violence ) captures the voices of his characters--young Thomas's mingled needs to understand, help, escape and heal, Lisa's sharp rudeness (of them all, she stays most directly related to the reality of their circumstances), Connie's desperate desire to keep her family together without losing herself. Though it is a turbulent time in the world and Thomas's chronicle is full of conflict, the story unfolds with a quiet, commanding authority--it is a literary edifice, from details to grand design, and Bausch is a master builder. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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