Belly

Lisa Davis, Author . Little, Brown $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-15880-0

What if a man's narcissism were so complete that it defied time, thwarted prison and thrived on a diet of parenting crimes and other sins? Such is the story of William O'Leary, aka Belly, the antihero of Davis's well-written but psychologically stifling debut. Davis has a lovely touch with homesickness and dark humor, one that humanizes 59-year-old Belly, convicted on an illegal gambling charge, as he returns to the scene of his original problems in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. His wistful memories of his hometown before it embraced major retail make his violence all the more terrible, as Belly unleashes his particular brand of self-rationalization and evil on the family that is, inexplicably, waiting around for him. While his daughters worry over him, wait on him and bend to his will, their increasingly dumbfounded sons and lovers watch as Belly stubbornly performs a cycle of drunkenness, abuse of women and demi-reflection. While some past (and new) crimes are worse than others, it's not like Belly changes. And that's the problem: Davis never fully reveals the demons that drive Belly to destroy. Instead, his moments of revelation are self-absorbed and fleeting, and they don't stick until the end, when they come across as too pat. Agent, Amy Williams. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/06/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
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