Luminous Mysteries

John Holman, Author
John Holman, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-15-100349-5
Reviewed on: 09/14/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-15-600757-3
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-21942-6
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The distinctive characters in Holman's (Squabble and Other Stories) fragmented novel will stick in readers' minds long after they've stopped wondering about the bizarre scenarios the author concocts to highlight their lives of barely controlled desperation. Holman sets the story in a rural Southern community where blacks and whites mingle uncomfortably and blacks still labor to understand what equality means in their day-to-day transactions. Orphaned, outcast from their families and ill-suited to their limited circumstances, Rita and her brother Grim, his girlfriend, Butter, Rita's lover, Lonnie, and the others nevertheless find ways to reach out to each other and, in doing so, discover a meaning in the madness of their lives. From saintly Rita's mental instability and Lonnie's drug-addicted past to Butter's transformation from schoolteacher to sex kitten, Holman minutely examines the eccentric and neurotic behaviors that they've contrived to try to make themselves complete. His spare language, occasional psychedelic descriptions (when Rita's car is hijacked, she sees her abductor surrounded by an aura, ""a gleaming silver-gold sheen issuing from him like the spiny fins of phosphorescent fish"") and the snappy repartee he whips up for his characters will appeal to readers who are drawn to life's more absurd or ironic moments. Others may be disappointed by the lack of an overriding structure or plot. But by giving his characters moments in which they break out of their cliched roles, Holman provides a thread--the luminous mysteries--that makes the individual pieces coalesce into an uneasy whole. Editor, Drenka Willen. (Sept.)
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