Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Ah—another family saga.  In this case we have the Whitshanks, with wayward biological son Denny, and the steady, reliable adopted son Stem, plus two nondescript daughters, all of whom are grown and helping out their aging parents, Abby and Red.  An unexpected death changes the family dynamic, but I could never get really emotionally involved in this story.  The backstory of Red’s parents, Linnie Mae and Junior, is the most absorbing part of the novel.  Linnie Mae at thirteen seduces the much older Junior and then tracks him down five years later.  He wants nothing to do with her, but, of course, one thing leads to another, and then he’s caught in a web that is just too much trouble to escape.  Linnie Mae comes across as completely clueless until we realize that she’s really as sly as a fox.  This novel is very readable, but ultimately I found it to be bland and depressing and lacking the author’s usual quirkiness.  Maybe Denny is a little quirky, calling his parents early in the novel and ending the conversation by proclaiming that he’s gay.  He’s apparently not, but I never quite figured out the purpose of the call, except to grab the reader’s attention.  Did Denny intend this announcement as a joke?  I guess it is just Denny being Denny, the child who consumes his parents’ attention, and all the while feeling that Stem is the one his parents love best.  Stem is the heir apparent to the family business, and he expresses his gratitude to Red and Abby for taking him in and raising him by being more solicitous and attentive than their biological children—at least until a secret about his parentage is revealed, altering his attitude entirely.  It’s hard to love a goody-two-shoes character, especially one with a chip on his shoulder, so we’re left with Denny, a Peter Pan who we will hope will grow up after the dust settles.

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