Wednesday, August 31, 2011


And what a tale it is. Percy Darling, the widower in question, is the first-person narrator for about a quarter of the chapters, and that's sufficient, because his erudite language would be exhausting to read if it ran all the way through. The book also focuses on the lives of three other guys—Robert (Percy's grandson), Celestino (a Guatemalan illegal immigrant), and Ira (a gay pre-school teacher). If you don't like one person's story, you may like another's, but I became absorbed in all of them, and they're intertwined in an uncomplicated way. Percy, whose wife drowned mysteriously in her 30s, raised two daughters, now grown. The elder, Clover, is a mess, having abandoned her husband and children and now wanting them back, or at least the children. The younger, Trudy, is a busy oncologist, married to a divorce counselor, and mother of Robert. Robert is a Harvard undergrad and becomes tangentially involved with his roommate's band of misguided environmental zealots/vandals. Here are the big questions that grabbed my attention: Will Percy's girlfriend get the lump in her breast checked out? Will Robert wise up or jeopardize his future? Will Clover continue with her unrealistic mission to regain custody? There's no great mystery here but plenty of tantalizing nuggets, and I wanted to see how they shook out. I found Ira and Celestino as satellites sort of orbiting Percy and his fascinating family. (Celestino = celestial?) And Percy is the "darling" of this novel, who, despite his aloofness, is the glue that keeps it all together. He's also a paragon of common sense, unhampered by delusions, while everyone else has his or her head buried in the proverbial sand.

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